Trekking Through Alberta
Oct04

Trekking Through Alberta

This project in Alberta was full-on. The plan was to work 19 days, with a 3 day break in the middle of it. However, my best friend got married on those 3 days between. Well, only one of those days, but you know how weddings are: day 1 = rehersal, day 2 = wedding, and day 3 = trying to recover. Moreover, I was dealing with a lot of personal issues over that weekend. It wasn’t as relaxing as I had hoped it would be. So, by the time we got back to work on the Google Trekker project, I didn’t have much of a rest. The second half of the project was meant to be a nice mix of locations, though. We were spending some time in the mountains, and some time in the north of Alberta; both locations I was looking forward to. K-Country Kananaskis Country used to be the biggest hidden gem in Alberta. So many tourists jet straight out to the National Parks, leaving K-Country largely to locals and people in the know. Things have changed a bit, and the region is certainly more crowded. However, it’s still mostly quiet. And it’s still incredibly beautiful. We did some trekking in the area. Jeff did an epic 18km hike over 2 mountain passes with a vertical gain of over 800m. I did some shorter moves, including a beautiful 12km hike with a 500m gain to a place called Prairie View Lookout. From that peak, there were 360 views of the mountains, Barrier Lake, and the prairies. Of course, we did some shooting both in Canmore and in Kananaskis Country. Rain, and Northern Lights In a bit of a tease, Jeff and I pressed down the Icefields Parkway without stopping. It was strange for me to drive that road without pulling off to do some shooting in some of the locations along the way. That road never gets old. We were pushing north, however. We made our way all the way north to Grande Prairie, which is about as far north in Alberta as I’ve ever been. It rained a lot. But, we still managed to get some trekking done. And, we managed to catch an extremely beautiful sunset on the prairies and a wicked display of the Northern Lights. From Grande Prairie, we pushed on to Slave Lake. Again, we were met with a bit of rain. But, wow, Slave Lake is beautiful. I was really impressed with that area, and had no idea interesting it is visually. I would have loved to get some better weather up there to do some photography. We did, of...

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Come with Me to Cuba!
Sep22

Come with Me to Cuba!

As some of you know, Jeff Bartlett and I are running a photography tour to Cuba this December. We’re almost nearing the deadline for participants to join, so this post is a bit of a reminder that if you’re interested, we need to hear from you soon. If you haven’t heard about our travel photography workshop in Cuba yet, be sure to head over to this page for information. Flights to Cuba The great news is that there are now direct flights coming from the United States to Cuba. You can fly into Santa Cruz and Camaguey from either New York or Miami now, which is fantastic. What’s even better is that the flights are extremely cheap. JetBlue, for example, has launched flights as cheap as $99. Though the tour starts in Havana, we can definitely arrange transport from either one of the cities in Cuba that the American flights come from. Can Americans Come to Cuba? Absolutely. When you leave the United States, you’ll be given a form asking for your reason for visiting Cuba. Since you’re not allowed, as an American, to be in Cuba as a tourist, you’ll need to fill one of the other categories. One of those categories is education, and since our workshop is of educational nature, you have every right to be there. Moreover, you might be asked if you will be having “peer-to-peer” activities with locals. And, you’ll be staying with locals, and even have a local photographer teaching you his skills one day. It should also be noted that since 2008, not a single American has been reprimanded for visiting Cuba in any capacity. Is the Trip Guarenteed Yes. As of right now, we’ve reached the minimum of what we need to run the workshop. Book Now If you’re interested in booking, please send us an email to brendanvanson (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m happy to discuss the next step and organize payment. For more information on the photography workshop, or others we’ll be running around the world visit here. Some Photo Teasers I thought I’d leave you with a couple photo teasers from Cuba. It’s such a wonderful place to photograph! Book Now We need to have a firm figure on the number of participants by mid-October, so if you’re interested, please get in touch as soon as...

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A Quick Guide to Photography in Iceland
Aug04

A Quick Guide to Photography in Iceland

Iceland is one of those places that’s just magic for photography.  It seems like everywhere you look the light is amazing and there’s something totally photo-worthy.  But the real beauty of photography in Iceland is that the weather and light changes so dramatically and quickly, that everyone experiences places completely differently.  Of course, that’s also the struggle.  It’s hard to properly prepare for Iceland as a photographer when the conditions are constantly switching up.  Thus, this is a bit of a guide to photography for Iceland. The Time of Year Iceland really is special anytime of year.  You can go in the summer for the long days, or the winter for the short days and those beautiful northern lights.  Really, it definitely depends on you.  Personally, I think June is the best month of the year to visit Iceland.  June is the month where the weather cooperates the most. Also, towards the end of the month you have those incredibly long days where the beautiful sunsets just seem to last forever.  If you want a bit more of an depth look at the best time of year to visit, check out this more general Iceland travel guide. The Gear Gear is always such a challenge, and choosing what equipment to take to Iceland is incredibly tricky.  That said, I think the general rule is to pack more than you think you’d need.  The other rule is to be prepared for weather.  Packing things like rain covers, lens wipes, and even silica packs to keep your gear dry is really important.  Other non-electronic gear you’ll want to bring are rain slicks, and if you’re hoping to get into some of the streams and waterfalls, you’ll want to bring hip-waiters. As for camera gear itself, I think you really want to be shooting two bodies in Iceland.  The reason is this: the weather is so nasty that you don’t want to be switching lenses out in the wild conditions.  I’d recommended a lens like a 16-35mm, and a long lens like a 70-200mm.  I really think that with just those two lenses you could probably shoot all of Iceland.  The last time I photographed the country I used these two exclusively and I never felt like I was missing something. Also, don’t forget the importance of a good tripod.  The winds in Iceland can be completely unforgiving.  If you don’t have a sturdy tripod, your camera could definitely take a tumble and get damaged. I’ve heard from a number of people who have broken gear in Iceland due to the high winds.  Don’t cheap out on your tripod.  Try something that’s...

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Location Scouting on the Via Dinarica
Jun18

Location Scouting on the Via Dinarica

I know, I know, I’m so slow at getting updates on the blog lately.  I’ve been so focused on building my newly minted Vlog, that the blog has been a bit of a time crunch victim.  But, alas, here I am with an update. I spent a couple days in Bosnia & Herzegovina, which is a country I’ve only spent a very small amount of time in. The goal of this trip was to join a buddy who founded an NGO building, and promoting a trail called the Via Dinarica.  We set out for 2 days to do some location scouting along the Via Dinarica to try to find some of the most epic photo spots, and maybe toss around ideas for ways to promote it. About the Via Dinarica I’m not going to get into too much detail, because I talked about it on my last trip to Bosnia.  But, essentially, it is a mega-trail that spans all the way across the former Yugoslavia.  The trails start in Slovenia, and stretch all the way to Albania and Kosovo. In reality, there are 3 trails.  The blue trail follows the coast, the green trail cuts through the forests, and the incredible white trail follows the highest peaks of the Dinaric Alps.  My buddy Tim’s organization has been working to build sign posts on the trail, get communities engaged in tourism opportunities like accommodation and restaurants, and mapping things out in various apps.  It’s a pretty incredible project, and seeing the progress from this year to my last visit has been amazing. The Most Remote Village in Bosnia One of the locations we came to on the trail was a village called Lukomir.  This is the most remote village in Bosnia.  In fact, during the snowy months of winter, the village is completely inaccessible. Lukomir’s location – along the white trail – is absolutely epic. The old village sits right on the edge of one of the most dramatic canyons in all of Europe.  Everybody in Lukomir knows Tim, and we spent some time with an older couple who are like his Bosnian grandparents. They were incredible sweet, and it was fantastic to have a bit of a cultural interaction like that – something that’s so hard to find in modern day Europe. Boracko Lake and Kravice Falls A couple other amazing spots on the Via Dinarica we went to were Boracko Lake and Kravice Falls.  Though the weather was terrible when we got to Boracko, the spot is beautiful. There were lingering clouds, and stunning reflections on the lake.  With the weather cold, we started our day off with...

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The Famous Bridge in Mostar (Photos and Video)
May30

The Famous Bridge in Mostar (Photos and Video)

I left Montenegro after a couple amazing weeks in both Kotor and Budva, and headed into Bosnia & Herzegovina.  I wanted to check out the city of Mostar and it’s famous bridge – Stari Most.  I missed out on the city on my first trip into Bosnia, and have had it on my list of things to do and photograph since then.  Thus, since I really only had a couple days to photograph Mostar, and explore town, I put all my focus into the famous bridge.  I spent an entire day location scouting, flying my drone, and photographing the bridge from a couple different angles. Where to Photograph the Mostar Bridge? I found that there really aren’t as many options as you might think.  Also, when I was there, the water levels were extremely high which actually cut down on the number of options.  That said, there really are three locations that are going to give you the best angle of the bridge. South of the Bridge – Viewing Platform Just south of the bridge, you’ll see a bit of a terraced platform.  This is the place that people who jump off the Mostar Bridge swim to when they’re done.  It’s also likely the best place to photograph Stari Most from.  In fact, I think it’s the only way to get a clean shot of the bridge with no other obstructions.  I photographed the bridge and worked to frame one of the mosques under it.  I didn’t get great light, but it worked. Kujundžiluk Pedestrian Street There’s a restaurant north of the bridge on Kujundžiluk street which has pretty good views.  The restaurant seems to close really early, and they don’t seem to mind people going in to take pictures.  That said, don’t linger here. If you go here to take pictures at least buy a drink. Koski Mehmed-Pašina Džamija Mosque If you’re willing to climb the minaret of this mosque, the views are fantastic.  I didn’t, however, climb because the light was extremely harsh the afternoon that I would have been able to go up.  Instead, I flew my drone even higher than the tower to get a similar angle. Note that you have to pay to go in and climb the minaret. Where to Stay in Mostar I stayed at a place called Villa Park. The place was beautiful, but it was a bit of a walk from the old town. However, if you don’t mind the 10 minute walk into the old town, the place is an absolute bargain. I paid about 20 Euros a night and had a balcony over the river. Getting to Sarajevo from Mostar There’s...

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We’re Going to Cuba! Join Us!!
May10

We’re Going to Cuba! Join Us!!

This is a long overdue announcement. I get emails on a near daily basis asking about when my next travel photography workshop and tour will be announced. And the truth is, my photography partner in crime Jeff Bartlett and I have gone back and forth on about a dozen different destinations, and dates before coming to a decision. We’ve decided to run our next big photography tour in Cuba December 2016! I can’t tell you how excited I am for this. I was in Cuba in October doing some scouting and working with local agencies to see if a trip like this is possible. And, in the end, not only is it possible, but it’s going to be an amazing experience. As you know, Cuba is like a step back in time. I’d say that since leaving Africa 3 years ago it is the most visually interesting country I’ve set my lens on. Every corner of the country is just so photogenic. The landscapes and nature are impressive, the people are some of the most friendly in the world, and the architecture and classic cars are from another era. This photo tour of Cuba will start in Havana on December 4th, 2016. We’ll visit highlights in the country such as Viñales, El Nicho, the Bay of Pigs, Trinidad, and much more. Check out the full 13-day itinerary here. The goal of this particular travel photography workshop, is not to just give you a change to take some excellent photographs with the instruction of professional photographers, but to give you an insight into life in Cuba. We will take some amazing photographs of beautiful things, but we will take away memories far more powerful than any photo. To get the full information on the workshop, head over to this page. There you’ll get information on how to sign up, the costs, and every other bit of information you’ll need. Photos From Cuba Here’s a slideshow of some images from locations this photography workshop will visit.  All of these images were shot in a 3 week period of time. Information for Americans The US government has re-opened its Embassy in Havana, so local support is available in Cuba. There are now direct flights to Cuba from Miami, or there are dozens of daily flights connecting in Central America. The American government has lessened the restrictions on visiting Cuba. However, the rules for travel to Cuba are still very strict. If you have any questions regarding your ability to visit Cuba, please refer to the information provided by your government. Please note that government policies can change, so please keep yourselves informed...

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