Saturday, July 9, 2016

And so our Cuban adventure Mexico.

And so our Cuban adventure Cancun, Mexico.  Our Cubana airlines flight was delayed till midnight, but Cubana airlines was nice enough to put us all up in a hotel for the day.  This goes way above and beyond what they needed to do, we have a pool, AC, and food.  Sure we would rather be spending this evening in Havana, but Cancun is not too shabby.  Havana will have to wait until the wee hours of the morning.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall already? When did that happen?

I guess it has been quite a while since my last update.  Sadly summer has left and fall is in full swing.  I feel that the colors have hit rather early this year, and are not sticking around for long.  Sadly I have not made it out to shoot a whole lot lately, something I need to remedy.  I finally made it out Wednesday after work for a bit to go and shoot down on the Fox River in Appleton.  Shocking, yes, I know, but when in Appleton, it's my favorite place.  One of the main reasons I was really itching to get out and shoot was the arrival of my long awaited new filter.  I have been trying for a couple years to get my hands on a Lee Big Stopper filter.  For some reason it has been out of stock everywhere, but finally it appeared in stock at good ol' B&H photo.  The big stopper is a 10 stop ND filter, which means it is just a very dark piece of glass that blocks a lot of light from getting into the camera.  Why would I want this?  Well, I like motion in my photos, and I have a slight obsession with moving water.  So, this filter allows me to achieve crazy slow shutter speeds which blurs whatever is in the shot.  Ok, example time.

This first shot is just my usual set up.  Tripod, cable release, and Lee graduated .6 ND filter.  All in a slightly precarious position.

Want to get as low as possible without having the camera go for a swim.

Here is the resulting image from the first setup.

Fall on the Fox
Camera settings ISO 200, f/11, 1/15th, at 17mm, Lee .6 Grad ND, tripod, cable release with mirror locked up.

1/15th gives just a hint of blur in the (slow) moving water.  I threw in the Lee Big Stopper, with its 10 magnificent stops of light reducing awesomeness.  The result is a shutter speed of three minutes in the next shot.  It could have been longer, but I upped the ISO to 400 so I would not be there all night.

Mirrored colors of fall
Camera settings ISO 400, f/11, 3 mintues, at 17mm, Lee .6 Grad ND, Lee Big Stopper, tripod, cable release with mirror locked up.

As you can see the result of leaving the shutter open that long is a glass like surface for the water, even the clouds begin to show motion blur.  I should also add that the sun broke below the clouds for this second shot, which is why the trees pop more.  The trees were not in direct sunlight for the first shot.

Walking around some more it was clear that sunset was going to offer up some great color.  Found a spot near a paper mill.   First shot I did without the Big Stopper, I just wanted to make sure to capture all the colors and not let the clouds blur.

Paper Mill Sunset
Camera settings ISO 200, f/11, 2 seconds, at 19mm, Lee .9 grad ND, tripod, cable release with mirror locked up.

After the colors started to fade a bit I threw on the Big Stopper.  Again, I upped the ISO quite a bit and opened up the aperture.  Otherwise it would have been a 30 minute exposure.  Instead I went with a 4 minute exposure, enough to get a little motion in the clouds.

Moving skies.
Camera settings ISO 800, f/8, 4 minutes, at 17mm, Lee .6 Grad ND, Lee Big Stopper, tripod, cable release with mirror locked up.

The Lee Big Stopper is going to open up a whole new set of possibilities for shooting long exposures.  I am very excited to get out and experiment more with it.  If only the weather will cooperate in Madison this weekend...we shall see.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New photos from Italy

I have been a bit slow at getting around to editing my travel photos from Italy.  The wedding took first priority, add a few random events to the mix and other work on top of that, and you get a trickling of photos nearly a month later.  The wedding album is up on the website, click the following photo to be taken there.

Here are a few randoms from the trip.

Sunset from perhaps my favorite vantage of Positano.

Super moon rises over Positano.

Super moon just after sunrise

Fresh produce outside a small shop

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wedding Bells and Stairs.

It has been a very busy few days here in Italy.  Saturday was the wedding ceremony for Jake and Mickey.  Everything came together nicely for it, the weather was great and the ceremony was a very nice, rather informal affair.

One of the many shots from the wedding day.

After the ceremony we shot a bunch of photos, then all went out to a nice dinner at a restaurant overlooking the city and the ocean.

Sunday I rose early for my typical sunrise walk/shoot.  Sky was not quite as nice as Saturday morning, but not too bad.  Walked down to the main beach in town and found a nice spot on the beach to shoot.

This was a nice spot, until it started to rain on me,  had to take shelter under a rock overhang for a bit to let the rain move through.

Sunday we spent most of the day bumming around town, doing a little shopping.  There is a hike up in the  mountains called the Path of the Gods.  We had wanted to do this, and the only day that was looking possible was Monday.  Unfortunately, the weather looked like rain for most of the day, so we were trying to figure out what to do.  We had decided we were going to do it anyway at some point in the day.  The hike is suppose to start in a town not too far away and conclude near Positano.  We decided to go get some food to take along the next day with us.  We went down the 200 stairs to the road and started towards the market when Jake had the epiphany that the weather is beautiful right now, and if we left right now we might make it up high enough for a good sunset.  We decided to try it, not knowing if we would even make it to the start of the trail in time.  It was about 5:30, we raced back to the apartment and packed up our things, went back down, got some food, and we were off by 6pm.  We moved at a very fast pace and somehow found the entrance to the trail by 6:30 pm, we had covered alot of ground in only half an hour. 

The main reason why most people use Positano as the end point for the trail is the 2000 or so stairs down to the road into the city. For us, this would be the starting point.  2000 stairs up a mountain...hmm, this sounds familiar, stairs seem to be the theme of my travels this year, first the Inca Trail, now Positano.  At least here its not all above 11,000 feet, and I don't have a hiking pack full of gear.  We made it up the 2000 stairs in about an hour and arrived in the little town of Nocelle.  The views from here were spectacular.  We proceeded trough the town and continued on the trail for a bit to scout out a place for sunset.  We found a couple of possibilities, snagged a few shots, ran like crazy up and down the trail,  but in the end the view from a terrace in Novelle was the best option.  We raced back down to the terrace and set up for sunset.

A shot from the path beyond Novelle

Sunset from Nocelle

Sunset from Novelle.

After sunset we headed back down the 2000 steps and back to Positano.  Walking through the streets we noticed the moon rising over the city.  Fortunately we were in a good spot, and I tried to get a few quick shots off before it was too high to shoot with the town.

We got back from the hike around 10pm, ate a delicious home made dinner then went to bed.  A long, but excellent day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Positano in the Morning

It has been a busy few days here in Italy.  Positano is a beautiful and charming city, even with its thousands upon thousands of stairs.  Yesterday morning we set off with the goal of hopping a bus to Sorrento then a train to Herculaneum.  We stood at the bus stop and waited, waited, and then for a change of pace, waited some more. After nearly an hour and a half, and no bus, some old guy finally stopped to tell us that the bus was not going to Sorrento.  Great.  Stopped in a hotel not to far away and asked the front desk what was going on.  Apparently there was a landslide on the way, and the public busses were not running due to liability issues.  All the other cars and tour buses seemed to be going, but not them.  The bus was still running to the south, so instead we headed down to the town of Amalfi for the day.  It is a nice town, but we all prefer Positano.

This morning was a particularly enjoyable morning for me.  Rising before sunrise I headed out on a walk down to the coast.  There were finally nice clouds in the sky, something to provide some drama and some color to the sunrise.  I should have left the villa a bit sooner, but, I think things worked out alright.  On my way down to the coast I shot the following of the town and the sun.

Positano Sunrise

I proceeded to wind down through the town to one of the beaches, the clouds were not quite as well lit any more, but still not too terrible.

Took a few shots on the docks for the ferry's that take you to different places.

Oh, and I am sure you all will be so happy to know that I did indeed find a good Italian beer.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Oh, Good Morning Italy.

We arrived in Frankfurt Germany at 8am yesterday. What better way to start the trip than with a beer for breakfast.  We found a nice little cafe at the airport, sat by the window and watched the planes and never ending procession of baggage cars, random cars, and other airport vehicles flying around in some sort of organized chaotic tango. 


I am in Italy because of these two, Jacob and Mickey. They are going to have their wedding ceremony here and have asked me to come with as the wedding and trip photographer.  Can't pass up a chance to do that.

Our villa is quite nice, great views, plenty of space.  The only complaint we have is that we have to climb up 209 stairs to get here.  25 pound camera backpack, 7 pound laptop case, and a 46 pound suit case, let me tell you, it was a good time for sure.  Jacob definitely had the worst of it, two big rolling suitcases slung over his back.  We had to do this a couple more times as other people arrived, we definitely got our workouts for the day.  We had a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant,  with my pizza I naturally had to have beer.  I must say, Italian beer definitely leaves much to be desired.  It was not terrible, but a bit like a Heinekin.  We bought a bunch of 3,50 euro wine and a little grocery store and it was not bad at all, so, I guess I will have to switch my attention to wine for this trip

I will post photos of the villa eventually, but for now I must get ready for the day. We are trying to organize a trip to hercalanum today or tomorrow, it is one of the towns buried in the 79a.d. eruption of Vesuvius.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Off to Italy, and a little Time-lapse preview

Tomorrow I am off to Italy for a week on the Amalfi coast.  Should be a good time, hopefully some good photo ops, so check back for updates.  In the meantime here is a quick time-lapse of me shooting other time-lapse sequences and melting ice, on the rooftop deck at the apartment I stayed at in Lima, Peru.  I am working on putting together a new time-lapse reel of footage shot over the past year or so, including Vietnam, Peru, and hopefully some footage from the next week.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Machu Picchu

The familiar knock on the tent comes at 2:30am, a groggy, not so eagerly consumed breakfast at 3:00am, then a quick slog down through the muddy campsites takes us to the locked gate which leads to the path to the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu.  It is 3:45am, we are indeed first in line, and I am not surprised. I am pretty sure Marco, our guide, is always the first one there.  As Marco would so often say, if you are not first, you are last.  All the other groups were indeed last, the second group to saunter down shows up about 15 minutes after our arrival, with others starting to trickle in after that.  The night is still in full effect, an overcast sky and light drizzle ensure minimal moon and star light make it through.  We settle down on benches, the ground, wherever we can find dry space under the queue areas roof covering.  A trip back up the short trail to the campsites to use the toilets reveals that the line is quite long, and there is a growing energy as 5:30 approaches.

When the gates finally open, there is a cheer amongst the crowd, our group is the first through.  The feeling is that of the start of a race, everyone seemingly wants to be first to the Sun Gate, the first to witness Machu Pichu, the first to finally see the reward for our three days of trekking.  Headlamps on, we took off in the dark at, compared to the other days, is a intense pace.  The sun starts to creep up, the temperature starts to rise, and our pace quickly made many of us regret having on so many layers below our rain gear.  I try to fight through the overheating and just make it to the gate, but my poncho feels like a sauna, add rain pants, a fleece jacket and rain jacket, I have to stop to shed a couple layers.  A few from other groups have passed me so far, and now I just accept the fact that I will not be among the very first to the Sun Gate.  Alleviated of my sweat inducing layers I continue on. After about an hour of hiking we arrive at the Sun Gate, and we enjoy a few minutes taking photos of the mountains and ruins laid out in front of us.

Machu Picchu 

 We continue on the path which takes us ever closer to the main site.  The drizzle continues and clouds roll through the valley at times obscuring the view of Machu Picchu.  On this trail down, we encounter a few people walking towards the Sun Gate from the ruins.  It was immediately clear these people were very different from the rest of us.  They were wearing clean clothes, were clean shaven, and when they walked past, you could smell the shampoo and soap they had used in a presumably hot shower that morning.  I would love to hear their observations from the other point of view, quite the opposite of ours I'm sure.  As we continue closer, we encounter more and more tourists fresh off the bus.  We arrive at the standard overlook area where some fantastic shots have been taken of Machu Picchu, if the clouds and sun cooperate, the lighting can be very dramatic and beautiful.  Or, if you are there during wet season, as we were, it can be very dull and drab, not a whole lot of contrast.  I make the best of it, snap a couple photos, we take our obligatory group photo sporting our Llama Path t-shirts, and continue on.

Machu Picchu

We take a bathroom break at the first normal sit toilets we have seen in a few days, grab a hot chocolate, then huddle under patio umbrellas as the sky opens up on us. During this break I find my scowling and general disdain for the clean clothed, fresh smelling tourists is something we all feel. They have not earned this, they did not hike for over three days to be here.  They sat on a bus and rode up.  We all conclude that Machu Picchu's first couple hours in the morning should be reserved for the trekker's.  Perhaps a bit arrogant and unrealistic, it is hard not to be annoyed by the mobs of people.  Most of the other ruins we visited we were the only ones there, now, we have to share and wade through thousands of tourists.

Machu Picchu

The first part of the morning at the ruins is a bit wet, we plod along,  trying to enjoy one of the most beautiful places in the world.  After our tour around the ruins with our guide, we are given a couple hours to wander around on our own.  The skies are finally starting to clear, the rain has stopped, and we even see patches of blue sky.  The weather got warmer, and the couple of hours we had were quite pleasant.  I scramble around from place to place trying to get some decent shots as well as some timelapse sequences.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Llamas freely walk around the site and keep the grass nice and short.  I usually fear being spat on, but these look to be very use to people being around and just kind of ignore everyone.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is an incredible place.  It's beauty is rivaled by few places elsewhere in the world.  Even so, I still say that Winay Wayna was my favorite place on the hike.  The solitude and beauty of it was magical.  Machu Picchu on its own is definitely worth the trip, even if you are not planning on doing the Inca Trail hike. Should you decide to take the bus up, just be ready to be scowled and scoffed at by the trekkers.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wiñay Wayna

Winay Wayna Ruins

These are the Wiñay Wayna Ruins, which were probably my favorite place along the Inca Trail. Although it can not compete with the scale of Macchu Pichu, its sheer beauty and surroundings make it just as awe inspiring. I think what really made this place special was the solitude. We had the entire place to ourselves, it was just the 18 of us and the ruins. Our guide Marco gave a talk toward the top of the ruins in a semi circular room with windows looking out over the valley and the jungle. I think it was pretty safe to say that these windows had some of the best views of any windows any where in the world.

Waterfall through one of the windows

After our talk, we were given time to wander around the ruins. Although as always, never as much time as I would like to take photos.

Winay Wayna Ruins

Wnay Wayna Ruins

Winay Wayna Ruins

Winay Wayna Ruins

The next batch of photos I hope to work on are of Macchu Pichu. Hopefully next week I will have a batch up on the website. As always, click on any image to view it larger and be taken to the gallery on my website.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Into the Jungle

The past week has been a fairly productive one photo wise. What's that you say? 30 photos is not all that many? Well, to make them their prettiest there is a fair amount of time dedicated to each photo to get it ready for the world to see. On to a few of them. Remember, click on any of the images to be taken to the full gallery on my website.

Mountain Peaks

Mountain Peaks poking out of the clouds.

Descending down from Dead Woman's Pass

This is the trail headed down from the highest point of our hike, Dead Woman's Pass, which is at 13,800 feet. That is pretty flippin high, it gets a little tough to breath up there. I was very thankful to be on the downward slope of the pass, the hike up was long and difficult. Unfortunately for us, when we reached the top the rain started, and stayed with us pretty much the rest of the afternoon. The path was mostly rock stairs, which got rather slippery when wet, and at times, the water was flowing down the trail like a small waterfall. We all went fairly slow and made sure to choose each step carefully with hopes of avoiding a wipeout. The porters on the other hand ran down the wet stairs, with massive packs, and many in sandals. It was impressive to say the least, I think had I tried that I would have had a long painful journey down the mountain on my backside.

Moss and fungi covered bridge along the Inca Trail

After our hike down from nearly 14,000 feet we had lunch in a valley at 11,700 feet. After lunch we trudged back out in the rain to climb back up to a little over 13,000 feet. On our way down from the second pass, the vegetation and environment continued its ever changing ways. This indeed is the start of the Amazon Rainforest, and it did live up to its name. But even the rain could not quell the beauty of the place. The moss covered trees, the lush green ferns, running water, just an incredible environment to walk through. This was one of the many small wooden bridges spanning gaps in the trail.

Into the Jungle

This was a neat part of the trail which felt as if were descending right into the heart of the jungle.

Intipata Ruins

The Intipata Ruins were quite impressive. This view does not show the rows and rows of terraces which are just up the path, but it does show the incredible view. This was the third day of our hike, nearing our campsite for the evening.

There are more photos up on the site, so click on any image to view more. I'm saving some already up there for the next post, where I will talk a bit about what is probably my favorite place of the entire trip (and its not Macchu Pichu).