La tour Eiffel (Part 1)

When traveling abroad I often find myself in a bit of a predicament. How do I go about taking a picture of a city’s iconic landmark, in a way that’s different from the myriads of other pictures taken before me?

To me, this is all about creativity and the ability to play around with composition. I find that there is no recipe for success, other than just work the scene, find a unique perspective and just simply experiment. The rules of composition i.e. patterns, leading lines, rule of thirds can be your friends, but breaking these rules might sometimes help as well. Silhouettes, reflections, framing with trees, the possibilities are endless.

Here is my attempt from my trip to Paris two weeks ago. I arrived at the Eiffel Tower right before sunset and stayed for a short time until the twilight hour. I’ve managed to capture two decent shots, one of which is the below. I will be posting my second shot in a couple of weeks. It’s not as unique as I was hoping for, but given the short window of opportunity I had, I am pretty happy with the results.

Eiffel - 1920c

 

Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 100, F8, at 3.2 secs (exposed at -2/0/+2).

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Flying Falcon

A couple of months ago, I wrote on my blog about wildlife photography and the thrill of spending hours on end capturing a shot of a wild animal in its natural habitat. Photographing birds in particular has always fascinated me, not only due to the technical complexity involved, but also because of the requirement to have a thorough understanding of both avian behavior and habitat.

The final stop of my roadtrip last summer was Vancouver – a city that I hold dear at heart, having spent there the majority of my university years. On a bright sunny day, we found ourselves taking the gondola ride up to Grouse mountain, to get some scenic views of this beautiful city. Luckily, during our short stay at the peak, we had the chance to attend a bird show, showcasing the flying and hunting skills of various breeds of eagles, hawks and falcons. As one of the falcons was performing a fly-by over the spectators, I turned my camera toward the sky and managed to get a few shots of this impressive predator.

I view this picture as a lucky first attempt. It was enough though to make me eager one day to invest the money, time and effort in further exploring this type of photography. Perhaps one day when I retire you’ll find me hiding camouflaged in the bushes with a large telephoto lens (assuming I can still carry one around!), patiently waiting to take an award-winning shot of a rare bird in its natural habitat.

Falcon - 1920cShot handheld with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OS lens, at ISO 400, F5.0 at 1/2500 sec.

Flower Photography

Given that we are already 4 weeks into 2015, my guess is that the tradition of exchanging new year pleasantries is now well over. Nonetheless, since this is my first blog post for the year, let me apologize for my tardiness and wish you all a belated happy and prosperous new year!

Last October, I found myself in Singapore on a week-long business trip. One afternoon when I had some free time, I decided to take a stroll with my camera around the Bayfront area, home of the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Just behind the hotel, are the Gardens by the Bay – a park spanning about 1 million sqm, that houses two large flower conservatories showcasing plants from all over the world. This was an excellent opportunity for me to give flower photography a try, in a perfectly controlled environment where the weather element was not going to be a factor that I had to worry about.

Flower photography is probably the most explored area of amateur photography and an area where the results are almost never in touch with what the photographer actually tries to capture. This was definitely not my first attempt at taking flower pictures, but simply the first time I managed to get a decent result that was worth sharing on my blog.

Singapore Flowers2 - 1920c

Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 200, F4.0 @ 1/60sec.

Water under the Bridge

Here we are, ready to bid farewell to yet another year. Around the same time last December, I remember reminiscing back at 2013 and being horribly disappointed about how the year had turned out – both economy-wise and at a personal level. It certainly was an all-time low but the eternal optimist in me always knew that once you hit rock bottom, things can only get better.

Thankfully they did. For me, 2014 was certainly a much better year. It was a year of self reflection and new beginnings – both personally and professionally. I’ve managed to fulfill one of my life long dreams by driving across the US and I’ve made an important career move, which will present me with new challenges and opportunities in the new year. Most important of all, both my family and I are in good health. That’s certainly all one can ask for.

So let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, full of happiness and health for you and your loved ones. If 2014 didn’t treat you as well, then cheer up, aim high and let this year’s bad memories flow away, like water under the bridge. See you all in 2015!

Water under the bridge - 1920c

Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 100, F13, at 2.5 secs using my B+W ND 3.0 filter.

Chrysomilou Inn

For this blog post, I’ve decided to take a break from my US road trip picture series and talk about a little side project that I’ve started back in October.

If you know me personally or you’ve read some of my older posts, you’ll know that my family’s origins are from the village of Kalopanagiotis, in the heart of the Marathasa Valley. On the off-chance that you have visited this village in recent years, you would have witnessed its transformation into a hotspot for agrotourism. While still maintaining its traditional architecture with its cobbled streets and footpaths, the village is now home to a number of hostels, trendy coffee shops and restaurants and an island-famous spa hotel.

My family claims to have years of experience in the hospitality business. My great-grandfather specifically, was the proud owner of an Inn back in the early 1900s, providing food and shelter to travellers riding through the village on their mules and camels, on their on their way to the northern regions of Cyprus. Now, almost a century later and as a tribute to my family’s origins, my parents have decided to restore this Inn (which later on became my grandparents’ home) into a trendy agrotourism apartment.

The restoration has taken almost a year and we are now at the stage of putting the final touches. Admittedly, my contribution to this project has been minimal. As the family’s designated photographer however, I have been tasked to take a few pictures, so I can decorate the walls and post on our soon-to-be-published website. As a result, in late October I found myself in Kalopanagiotis, camera in hand, on a 3-hour shooting excursion. This picture is one of 5-6 picture frames that will soon be printed on canvas and hanged in the apartment. These traditional door handles are found on almost every door around the village and are truly representative of the village’s traditional character.

Door Handle Spider 1920

Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 800, F2.8 @ 1/25sec.

Yellowstone Park

Growing up as a kid, one of my favorite cartoon characters was Yogi Bear and his picnic basket stealing escapades at Jellystone Park. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that Jellystone is an actual take-off on Yellowstone National Park, a park that spans almost 9,000 sq Km in the state of Wyoming. After researching what this place was all about, I was quickly convinced that it had to be added to my bucket list. It was therefore no coincidence that when we started planning for our road trip, no matter how we planned to cross the continental US, all routes led us through Yellowstone.

One cannot fathom how large this park is until you start driving through it. It took us about 2 hours to cross it the first day we got there, and subsequently 2 full days of driving just to visit some of the major sights. What you bear witness to however is truly remarkable, as the park has a plethora of lakes, canyons and rivers, home to hundreds of species of mammals, fish and reptiles, some of which are considered endangered. The park also sits on an active volcano, so there is an abundance of hot springs and geysers. I’ve managed to take a few pictures of the landscape, animals and other sights and will dedicate the next few blog posts to share these with everyone.

Starting off though, this is the picture of the Lower Yellowstone Falls, one of the highlight features of the park, standing at 94m tall – nearly twice the height of the Niagara Falls.

Yellowstone Falls2 - 1920c

Taken with my tripod-mounted Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens, at ISO 100, F8.0 and 15 sec exposure (using my B+W ND 3.0 solid filter).

The road less travelled

Photography can be a very expensive hobby, but only if you let it become one. When I started out as an amateur photographer, I remember spending what was then a considerable amount of money for my first DSLR camera body along with its kit lens. What then followed was nothing short of madness, as I kept researching and purchasing new lenses to fit every type of photography – macro, landscapes, portraits, astro-photography, you name it.  I am now the not-so proud owner of 6 lenses, half of which I rarely use. If I had the chance to think this through all over again, I would have definitely kept it down to 2-3 quality lenses max.

Getting caught in this madness seems inevitable. Friends of mine sought my advice numerous times in the past on what is the best gear for particular types of situations. It was not until recently that it occurred to me that the best gear always happens to be the camera you have in hand at that particular moment. Surely, if you could carry all your equipment in your backpack, then there is one lens and one camera body that may be the most suitable, but sometimes even your camera phone will suffice.

A testament to this is the picture below. On my recent US road trip, we drove from Denver through the flat lands of Wyoming on our way to Yellowstone park. This was by far the most uninteresting part of our entire road trip – no change in scenery, endless fields of wheat and barely any cars on the road. In an effort to entertain myself a bit as most of my fellow co-travelers were falling asleep in the back, I simply took out my Nexus 5, switched its setting to HDR mode  and quickly snapped this picture. Doubt you would have challenged me had I told you instead that this was shot with a pro camera!

Wyoming Road - 1920cShot with my LG Nexus 5. Yep, just that.