Photography & Poland: Lessons Learned
Feb12

Photography & Poland: Lessons Learned

I was in a bit of a hurry getting through Poland.  I quickly found out that was a mistake.  The minute I stepped off the train in Gdansk, I knew I needed more time in the city. And, the fact that it poured rain on me the entire time I was in the city certainly didn’t help my mood.  Then, after leaving Gdnask I noticed how stunning Warsaw is.  Of course, I had planned on skipping Warsaw in favour of Krakow.  But, you can’t lead a boy into a candy store and tell him to choose just one thing, it’s not fair.  Poland, is a photographer’s candy shop.  I was definitely taken by surprise by how stunning it is.  From a planning standpoint, Poland was full of lessons learned.  And, if there’s any destination I’ve been in Europe that I need to go back and spend more time in, it’s this country. Below, as is always the case, I have a video from my time here in Poland, and then some information and thoughts about the destinations, and some photography. Rain and Lesson Learned in Gdansk I arrived in Gdansk at night, and in the rain.  I honestly hadn’t checked the forecast at all before arriving.  I just booked an apartment, and went.  Of course, when I arrived in town and saw that the weather was meant to be pouring rain for the entire 3 days I was there, I was devastated.  I’ve been so busy in Europe thus far, I haven’t really been planning, I’ve just been going and wishing for the best.  But, had I looked at the forecast, I would have seen that the weather was miserable, and changed to spend time in Warsaw instead. What made things worse was that I saw how stunning the city is, and I couldn’t photograph it the way I wanted to.  That kind of hurt.  And, since I had already paid for my accommodation, I had to sit there in the rain hoping that it would clear up. The lessons learned here, as a photographer are 1) always check the weather forecast. It’s not worth your time to sit in an expensive bit of accommodation if you’re not earning any money.  And 2) go out and shoot even if it’s raining.  Even in the rain, I found a couple places to shoot in the city where I didn’t get soaked doing so.  I only went shooting one morning, and I came away with 5 or 6 images I really like. Quick Thoughts on Gdnask Maybe the most beautiful city I’ve seen in Europe. Amazing craft beer and foodie scene....

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Best Places to Photograph in Riga
Jan26

Best Places to Photograph in Riga

As a part of my Christmas in Europe, I really wanted to spend a lot of time in the cities of the Baltic countries. Especially high on my list, along with Tallinn, was Riga. Riga is actual the home of the first ever decorated Christmas tree, or so the stories say. So, it was incredibly cool being in the city this time of year. Though I only had a couple short days in Riga, and well the weather wasn’t fantastic, I did find quite a few cool places in the city for photography. As is always the case, below you’ll find a video from my time in the destination along with information from the city and in this article a guide to the best places to photograph in Riga. Best Places for Photography in Riga Rigas Doms This is one of the classic locations for photography in Riga. The square in front of the old Cathedral is very cool, and in December the Christmas market is humming with activity. It probably the best place in town to shoot. The cathedral is lit both in the morning and and night, so if you want a quiet scene come here in the morning. If you want to add some street photography to your scene, come and shoot in the afternoon. House of Blackheads Maybe even more iconic than Rigas Dom, the House of Blackheads is the presidental palace in Riga. I came here and photographed the square in the morning light, and was questioned (very nicely, and politely) by a captain in the national guard – he was wondering why I was photographing the house, and asked that I not photograph the faces of soldiers. For me, this is best photographed in the morning. St. Peter’s Basilica Basically right across the street from House of Blackheads, this is the most impressive cathedral in Riga. In fact, it’s so big that it might actually be hard to capture in one frame. During parts of the year, it’s possible to climb the church tower and get really great shots of the city from above. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t possible when I was there. Across the Daugava River in the Parks From across the river, you can get cool photos of all the cathedrals of Riga and the skyline. There are two different parks that you get to via the two bridges. Both offer pretty good views of the Riga skyline. To capture the whole city in one frame, the park to the north works best. For more varied photos, and to pick out buildings with a telephoto lens, the longer park to...

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Shooting Photography in Tallinn, Estonia
Jan21

Shooting Photography in Tallinn, Estonia

When planning my winter trip around Europe, I had really circled a couple destinations on my list of cities that I really wanted to photograph.  Tallinn, Estonia was high on that list, and one of the places I actually considered set up as a base city – spoiler, I’m now based in Europe, and will be for the foreseeable future.  All the photos I had seen of the city, as well as the stories I’d heard from other travellers were that Tallinn is a wonderful place to be; and it definitely is. As usual, check out what I got up to in Tallinn in the video and article below. Best Places to Photograph in Tallinn Tallinn is a fantastic city for photography.  The old town is enourmous and there are countless alleys and streets that make for great images.  If you’re looking for big dramatic iconic photos of the city though, there are 3 really great locations for photography in Tallinn.  There are a couple other decent spots worth checking out that are also listed below. Kohtuotsa Vaateplatvorm (Viewing Platform) This angle gives you a great over view of the churches in the center of Tallinn.  It also gives some interesting angles into the streets of the old town.  The location isn’t perfect, but it’s good.  There are some trees in the way, and the background to the images are the tall hotels and modern part of the city, and that kind of spoils certain shots.  Still, this is a must location. Patkuli Viewing Platform Personally, I like this angle of the city better than the Kohtuotsa viewing platform, although it’s different.  From here, your photos will also show those iconic city wall towers as well as the churches.  The background too is much more clean to photos of Tallinn taken from here.  It’s only a 2 minute walk between these two viewing platforms, so you definitely can photograph both locations during the same sunrise or sunset. The Radisson Blu Rooftop Terrace The bartender at the Monk’s Bunk Hostel told me about this one, and it didn’t disappoint.  You can head up to the rooftop terrace at the Radisson Blue for incredible views of the old town of Tallinn as well as the sea and the rest of the city.  I went up the elevator and onto the deck of the bar without anyone asking – or caring – if I was a guest.  I didn’t have to buy a drink to be up there.  The one bit of advice I would give if you go up here is to have a tall tripod.  I forgot the extension for my...

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A Day of Photography in Helsinki, Finland
Jan16

A Day of Photography in Helsinki, Finland

My time in Helsinki, Finland was a prime example of why procrastination doesn’t really work in travel photography. When I arrived, the forecast said that the weather would be perfect for photography for the duration of my two day visit to the city. And well it would have been easy to take a day off after a busy trip from Passau to Budapest. I got out and shot as many locations as possible the first day in town. As it turned out, it was a good thing I did. The following day, the forecast had changed and I woke up to pouring rain and bland overcast skies. As usual, check out the video from my stay in Helsinki, and read the information about my stay in the city below. Why Such a Short Visit? My visit to Helsinki was only 3 nights, and 2 days. And, yes, that might not be a short visit for a typical tourist, but for a travel photographer it really is. Normally, travel photographers want a solid 4 days in a city like Helsinki. We’d spend the first day location scouting, and then the rest of the days shooting. We’d like to give ourselves an extra day in case of bad weather as well. The reason my stay was so short was because, to be fully honest, I wasn’t planning on visiting Helsinki at all. The only reason I did come was because the flights to Helsinki from Budapest were so much cheaper than to Tallinn, Estonia. Thus, I decided that I might as well take advantage of also staying and shooting a couple days in the city. I’m glad I did. Though I only had 1 day to shoot (because of the weather), I found Helsinki to be very cool. It was a calm, quiet city and felt more like a small town than a European capital. I also found it far more photogenic than I expected. I’m actually already planning a return to Finland, I really did like it. Where to Stay in Helsinki Being back in Europe means I’m back in hostels from time to time. Helsinki might not be as expensive as other cities in Scandinavia, but the price of rooms is still fairly high for my usual budget. Thus, I stayed at Hostel Erottajanpuisto. I think the hostel should have a policy that if you can pronounce the name right, you get 50% off your room. Anyways, it was a great location in a really central part of town. The hostel was comfortable and was the perfect base for photography in the city. Some Photos from Helsinki As I...

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Visiting Budapest and Bratislava
Jan14

Visiting Budapest and Bratislava

We ended our Viking River Cruise in style with stops in both Bratislava, Slovakia and Budapest, Hungary.  Both are places that I’ve visited in the past, and both are places I really enjoyed on previous visits.  In fact, I’ll be making Budapest my base in Europe for a while starting in March.  The last time I visited Bratislava, it was refreshing for me.  It was a little bit grittier than other places I’d visited in Europe previously, and seemed a bit more genuine as well.  This year, my affection for the city only grew.  It really is far too often over-looked as a destination.  As usual, below I have a video from the trip, and some information on this section of my travels. Visiting Bratislava Bratislava is cool.  It’s one of my favourite places to shoot in this part of Europe.  It’s got this gritty, yet comfortable feeling and really is the first place in Europe that you start to feel like you’re in the “east”.  I find the Slovaks to be extremely friendly people, too.  Maybe a bit shy, but very welcoming.  The Christmas markets in Bratislava were in full force during our visit, and seemed to be a bit more authentic than some of the bigger markets in bigger cities.  Our visit to the city, to be honest, was a bit too short.  Yes, you can see most of Bratislava in a half a day, but I felt that the race to get out of town and on to Budapest left me wishing I had time to chill out somewhere in the city and grab a beer rather than racing on down the river. Of course, Viking had good reason for pushing us on.  As you’ll find out. Some Photos of Bratislava Visiting Budapest The reason we pushed out of Bratislava so quickly was so that we’d arrive in Budapest at night before everyone had gone to bed, and well the city was lit up.  It was a smart move by Viking.  In many ways, this was one of the most special moments of the tour.  The fog on the Danube River was so thick just outside of Budapest that we could hardly see our hands in front of our faces.  Yet, there we all were stood on the top deck of the longship waiting for our arrival in the city. Then, just as we hit the city, the fog lifted and we were greeted by the spectacular sight of the Budapest lights.  The parliament buildings, the Citadella, and the Chain Bridge were all lit up so beautifully.  It was just a great way to arrive in our...

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Exploring Austria
Jan10

Exploring Austria

After leaving the city of Passau, my Viking River Cruise made its way down the Danube River and into Austria.  Now, well I have been to Austria before I really only scratched the surface with a quick visit to Vienna.  This time, our schedule had us in a lot of the best places to visit in the country.  We started out with a docking in Linz where we all took a day trip to Salzburg.  From there, we cruised down the Danube River into the most stunning section of the river – the Wechiau Valley.  Here, we stopped and visited Melk and the incredible palace.  We also arrived in Durnstein just before sunset.  That town was incredibly special, I could have spend a couple days exploring that town.  Finally, we headed to Vienna where I spent a day wandering town, and then photographing Schonbrunn Palace.  Check out the video, and some quick thoughts and images from the trip through Austria below. Thoughts on Salzburg If I’m being quite honest with you, I thought Salzburg was a little bit over-rated.  And, yes, a good part of that might have to do with the fact that it was covered in Italian tourists (it was a holiday for them, or something).  But, overall, I had a good time there.  I guess I just didn’t see the same wow-factor that I have felt in other less famous cities in Europe.  And that’s not to say it’s not pretty, it is.  It just might not have been as mind-blowing as I expected.  Of course, having high expectations is often a problem. Some Images from Salzburg It was the middle of the day when we visited Salzburg, so the photos aren’t amazing.  It was also so crowded in town that it was hard to get a shot set up with out someone bumping into you and then saying “mi scusi!,” or just bumping me and acting like it didn’t happen. Or standing in front of my camera to take a selfie. Melk and the Abbey Unlike Salzburg, I had exactly zero expectations going into Melk.  In fact, before the trip, I had no idea there was a town in Austria called Melk.  I literally had no knowledge of Melk Abbey.  Thus, it was quite easy to be impressed by the place.  The abbey is spectacular, and unlike Salzburg there were no other people there aside from our Viking River Cruise people.  The town below the abbey was very cool too.  It felt like a proper Austrian village, and had a calm Chirstmas mood going on. Some Images from Melk Again, we were visiting Melk in...

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