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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Winter on the Icefields Parkway
Dec20

Winter on the Icefields Parkway

After finishing up in Jasper, I had to get back to Calgary – the city where I went to university and where most of my friends and family live.  My buddy Jeff Bartlett (check out his portfolio here) was kind enough to drive me down the Icefields Parkway and then through Kananaskis to get me home.  Of course, a couple photographers can’t just drive through the mountains without shooting them.  And, Alberta got a tonne of fresh snow so we really did make some fresh tracks and have beautiful white snow to work with.  The Icefields Parkway in the wintertime is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Then again, it’s stunning any time of year. This was our day driving one of the most spectacular roads in the world. Is the Icefields Parkway open in the Winter? The short answer is, yes the Icefields parkway is open in the winter.  In fact, it’s the highest elevation road in all of Canada that’s open year round.   However, that’s not to say that the road doesn’t close.  The road can close throughout the winter for a number of reasons.  The first, of course, being a winter storm or incredibly icy roads.  The road can also be closed because of avalanches (both natural and ones triggered on purpose by the park), rockslides, and other reasons.  A trip down the parkway is never a guarantee in the winter, so always be prepared to have enough time to drive around if you need to get from Jasper to Banff or farther south. What are Road Conditions Like? Again, the road conditions on the Icefields Parkway really depend day-to-day.  It depends on whether the snowplows have been over it after snow, if there’s enough salt and dirt laid down for traction, and how much ice is on the road.  Before you set off to drive the road in the winter, be sure that you ask about the conditions. Also, you probably don’t want to cruise down the road in a little city car with summer tires.  And, no matter what you choose to drive be sure you’re prepared with warm clothes and some snacks in case you get stuck, have an accident, or have car trouble. Locations worth Photographing on the Icefields Parkway in Winter Winter is tricky to shoot photography in the Rockies for the simple fact that most of the lakes are completely frozen over by late December or early January.  Thus, I like to find open pieces of water along the Athabasca Glacier, or head for the larger lakes that tend to stay open for a bit longer.  On...

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Review: Formatt Hitech 16-Stop ND Filter
Nov20

Review: Formatt Hitech 16-Stop ND Filter

Over the past couple years, I’ve found myself using filters more and more often.  In fact, I’d say that almost any shot I take well my camera is on a tripod – and not pointed at an animal – there’s a filter on the front of my lens.  I love using filters, and attribute a lot of the improvement in my work to the proper use of filters.  Thus, on this photography blog I really wanted to start posting more about that filter use.  So, over the next couple months keep an eye out for tutorials, and reviews of different types of filters. In this article, I’ll be reviewing the Formatt Hitech 16-stop ND Filter which is a part of their new “Firecrest” series of filters.  After buying the filter in New York, I headed right out to Brooklyn Bridge Park to test out the filter on the beautiful Manhattan skyline.  These were my findings. Is 16-Stops Too Much? The truth is, buying the 16-stop ND filter was an impulse decision.  I just looked at it, and thought to myself “how much fun could I have with this filter?”.  Then, shortly after leaving the store, I started regretting it.  I mean, how often will I use a 16-stop filter?  What practical use does a 16-stop filter have?  16-stops is just too many, isn’t it? To give you some idea on just how many stops 16 is, I’ll try to put it into perspective.  Lee filters sells two heavy ND filters.  One is called the little stopper and reduces light 6 times.  The other is called the big stopper, and reduces light 10 times.  Thus, using a 16-stop filter is like putting the two heaviest Lee filters on at the same time.  And well 6 more stops might not seem like a lot, we have to remember that stops are exponential when it comes to shutter speed.  Thus, if a shutter speed is 30 seconds at 10-stops, it’s 32 minutes at 16-stops.  That’s a massive difference.  To give you even more perspective on how dark 16-stops is, most DSLRs shoot shutter speeds of 1/4000 seconds at the fastest, and it has to be really bright to achieve that shutter speed.  At an unfiltered shutter speed of 1/4000 seconds, 6-stops of ND reduces the shutter speed to 1/60, 10-stops to 1/4, and 16-stops to a full 15 seconds! So, is 16-stops too many?  Well, probably.  It just seems like it’s hard to claim that there’s a lot of use for this filter.  It is truly a specialized product.  That said, the more I shoot with it, the more I love how creative it...

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