Day 2 - Christmas sales, Bangkok style

This morning, it was an early start as we joined a full day tour that would take in some of Bangkok's iconic tourist attractions - the floating markets, The Bridge on the River Kwai and a Tiger Temple.

The Damnoen Sadauk Floating Markets are located about 100km south-west of Bangkok, so it was going to be a big driving day. Nothing like some good quality time in Bangkok's peak hour!

Our mini-bus, weaved erratically through the traffic, dodging vespa drivers who I am convinced had death wishes. As always, some of the sights made me monks waiting patiently in the middle of the street to cross the road, severely overloaded motorbikes and tuk tuks which defied gravity by staying upright and street vendors getting an early start on making their first sale of the day. Sales in the morning apparently bring the vendor good luck.

We arrived at the markets, where we were joined by about 50 people from other mini-buses, and then clambered onto long, square-ended boats called sampan. Each boat held about 10 people, and it felt like our butts were below the waterline. Our lady "helmsman" perched on the back of the boat and set off into the main channel.

Both sides of the canal were lined with stalls and stationary boats that served as both shops and restaurants. The rest of the canal was packed with other boats like ours, occasionally leading to gridlock. It was hilarious!

The deal was, that if you wanted to buy any of the merchandise, you simply asked the driver to pull in to whichever stall took your fancy. The other option was that the stall owner would use a large boat hook to drag your boat over for some more persuasive selling.

You could buy pretty much anything from the floating market - fresh fruit (the pineapple was delicious!), T-shirts, souvenirs, spices and all manner of homewards made from coconut shells. Ladies were also cooking on their boats - their floating kitchens pumped out noodles, tea and coffee, sticky rice and grilled banana...god knows how they did it in those conditions, but it was pretty impressive to watch!

After an hour of floating around the markets, we boarded a motorised long boat to explore more of the surrounding villages. The people of Damnoen Saudauk have definitely adapted to living on the water, which seems to lap literally at their doorstep.Boats of all shapes and sizes are moored outside their homes in "water garages", and other than that, seem to be pretty much like our homes. I wonder how they feel about tourists hooning up their street all day...

Coconut and banana trees lined the canal, and we saw a stack of water lilies, although they seemed to have smaller flowers than the water lillies I'm familiar with.

Despite the long drive, the floating markets were definitely worth visiting. Even though they were set up largely to attract tourists, it gave us an idea of how the Thai people live.

Another hour of hair-raising fun on the motorways ensued, the mini-bus once again driving at break-neck speed, sitting on the tail of more slower cars until they relented and got out of the way.

Lunch was a pre-paid, mass-production of rice, sweet and sour veggies, chicken and cashews, and omelette - not too bad, but I'm hanging for street market food for dinner tonight!

Then it was another 20 minute drive until we reached Kanchanaburi on the banks of the river Kwai. As we walked across the iconic bridge, I realised how little I knew of the history of this area, or its significance in WWII. More reading on that subject when I get home!

On the way back to the bus, we passed a chained leopard cub, which you could pay to cuddle and have your photo taken. We declined on the paid photo, but got some great shots of the cute kitty with our own cameras.

After all the debating, I'm happy I bought the 70-200mm lens with me. There have been times that the 24-70mm lens has not had the reach I needed. The big lens is also great for candid street portraits. I'm also very happy I bought the 85mm Zeiss lens. It was great yesterday in the low light of the markets, and there's just so much interesting stuff to photograph here!

Yet more driving, and we reached the Tiger Temple, which is a huge zoo seemingly run by monks and volunteers.

The main attraction here is that you can have your photo taken with both tiger cubs and fully grown tigers. Tiger Canyon is where the big boys are, and although chained to anchors in the ground and "managed" by at least one, if not two handlers, they still looked pretty fierce. We declined the opportunity to be photographed with the tigers, happy to take photos at arms length. There's still too much of this holiday to go, without becoming an entree. That said, they're such beautiful cats....wish I could have brought one home with me.

We also got to see tiger cubs playing in water, and others being walked on leashes by monks. We'd been warned at the gates not to wear bright colours such as red, orange and pink - the signs said that animals were attracted to such bright colours, which may have posed a danger to us...yet the monks were in bright orange robes. Go figure! My strategy was to hang very closely to the monks, as they'd have likely been entree before me, with all that bright clothing....

With another day of amazing sights under our belts, the long drive back to Bangas began. I could go on about the mental drive home - like the family who drove alongside of us in the back of their looked like all three generations were jammed into the tray; or the workers who were jammed in the back of a station wagon, driving along with the boot door open....

So for the most part, I used the drive home to write this Michael will attest, the less I see of Thai driving, the more relaxed I am ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Day 1 in Bangkok - assault on the senses!

After a l-o-n-g day of flying, a transit in Singapore, and another shorter flight, we finally arrived in Bangkok last night, ready to explore the city that never sleeps.

We're staying in the Grande Ville Hotel in the Chinatown district of Bangkok. It seems pretty central, and even 18 floors up, we can hear the endless din of the traffic, the occasional squeal of brakes, and the incessant car horns. Thai drivers really love their car horns!

I'm on a mission to try something new, food-wise, every day. The hotel puts on a great buffet breakfast, and as well as some fantastic pineapple and watermelon, I tried a fruit that kinda tasted like a cross between a pear and a potato. There was a sugary looking mixture with what looked chilli flakes mixed through it, near this mystery fruit, so I sprinkled some on and had a taste. It turned out to be salt mixed with sugar, which gave it all a fairly bizarre sweet and salty taste. Not sure I'll go back for that tomorrow, but it was worth a go.

We then donned the camera gear and started the day's walk down to the Chao Phraya river. It was looking pretty full and full of debris after the recent floods - I can only imagine how much water came through this city in what were its worst floods in 70 years.

As soon as you step outside the relative peace of the hotel, Bangkok screams at your senses to wake up, and see, hear, smell, touch and taste everything it has to offer.

Tuk tuks, cars, taxis, buses, trucks and motorcycles jockey for position down the crowded streets, changing "lanes" without indication, using their horns instead. People squeeze down the narrow footpath between the road and the shops, with all manner of food, electronics, clothes and kitchenware out for sale.

Narrow, grotty little alleyways spear off to the right and left, with shafts of light beaming down through holes in tarpaulins. Everywhere, there is the smell of something delicious cooking - corn over hot coals, chicken on skewers, and huge pans with hot stuff simmering away. There are also foul smells - the rubbish on the streets, dog poop, and rank water running through the drains.

We walked down to the Pak Khlong Market on the river. It was a huge complex and completely frantic, even at 11am. Fresh food and produce was bundled, bagged and stacked as far as the eye could see - four bwzillion types of "Asian greens"' enough garlic to keep the world's vampire population at bay for the next three centuries, and all of the delicious ingredients such as limes, lemongrass, chillis and basil, that you associate with Thai food.

There were hilarious sighs in the markets - cats making comfy beds in bowls of limes, tiny ladies trying to wheel huge, full trolleys through the tiny, crowded isles, and all sortsa weird offal that I prefer not to ponder too much. We walked past one food stall, where the guy was cooking "spicy chicken" so spicy, that standing within 30ft of him, made us cough in that "chilli's got the back of your throat" kinda way. For 30 baht, or a mere AUD$1, it looked like an amazing meal.

Photographically, the markets were a visual paradise - so many colours and textures, and sights just a tad different from good old Brisvegas. Seeing different things, and how other people live, is one of the reasons I Iove traveling so much.

A photo board showed photos of how the floods had effected this market - it almost looked like the Rocklea markets post-floods. It's great to see the Thai people getting back on their feet and trading so soon after such devastating events...I guess it's the same everywhere - when your livelihood is effected, you do whatever it takes to get back on deck.

We continued our walk through various parts of downtown Bangkok. We were frequently offered tuk tuks to transport us, but preferred to walk. I reckon you see more when you're not hanging off the back of a mobile death trap. I will definitely have a tuk tuk ride at some stage, but it was great to be able to stop and take photos whenever we wanted.

The temples here are large, ornate and everywhere. "Wat" is the word for temple. "Which Wat is that?" became my question du made me giggle anyway :)

We wandered up to Wat Indrawiharn, where the main attraction was the 105ft/32m tall standing Buddha. Good grief it was large! Cats and tourists strolled around the complex, the cats looking for cosy beds in the sun, and tourists seeking the shade.

After being immersed in food markets all morning, we decided to go for the street food option for lunch outside Wat Indrawiharn. We both tried spicy chicken fried with holy basil and rice. Delicious! And such a bargain at 30 baht per dish.

Next stop was the Thewet Flower Market, which is both a great smelling and looking place to explore. Flower sellers sat round plucking damaged petals off their roses and bundling at least two dozen in a bunch, then wrapped the lot in newspaper. In some cases, the buds were individually wrapped in what looked like a specially made foam. I loved how far they went to protect the flowers!

As well as cars and tuk tuks, boats are a popular and convenient way to get around this city. We headed down to the nearest pier and caught the Chao River Express, a "river bus", back towards the Memorial Bridge, where we'd more or less started our day at the markets.

The boats fang it up and down the river with no apparent speed limits. Long boats zoom past tugboats, which are pulling or pushing massive barges. It all feels a bit James Bond-esque. Docking at each pier down the line is a loud and occasionally whiplash-inducing experience, where a boat hand whistles loudly to signal the boat is coming into a pier. Then the captain does an intricate series of movements, shoving the motors into forward and reverse, to shunt the boat (rather violently) into position....but we got to our destination in the end!

Our hotel has a rooftop bar on the 24th floor, which provides a pretty spectacular view over the city. Cocktails on the rooftop seemed like the perfect way to end our first day in Bangkok!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Hello bokeh!'s one of those times when all the pretty lights scream one thing....BOKEH!

Derived from the Japanese language, bokeh "is the blur or the aesthetic quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas of an image, or "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light." Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting - "good" and "bad" bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions." - according to Wikipedia.

Anyway, last night was a great opportunity to whip out my Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/85 lens and take advantage of its amazing shallow focus, while roaming round the colourful streets of Brisbane's Jindalee.

The first image below shows what the amazing "light house" looked like - some 80,000 hand-strung lights twinkled in an unbelievable 15-minute choreographed piece of blinking artwork. The other shots show slightly out-of-focus shots ranging from f/1.6 up to f/2.8.

My Zeiss lens is manual focus, so it's quite easy to get out of focus shots - simply twiddle the focus ring in the wrong direction, and voila....out of focus shots! But the more I played around with this counter-intuitive, out-of-focus style of photography, the more I liked it. There's more shots from the evening on my Flickr stream.

ISO 1600 | f4.0 | 1/20

ISO 800 | f1.6 | 1/40

ISO 800 | f/2.0 | 1/100
One of my buddies used the Lensbaby Creative Aperture Kit to create some gorgeous heart and star shaped bokeh at the same scene - check out her images here on Flickr.

"Get it sharp" is the mantra that's typically drilled into photographers from the word go, but you can have an awesome time experimenting with out of focus shots and shallow depth of field. Give it a go - it's the perfect time of year to play with bokeh!

Photographing the most important people

Photographs of people capture moments in time, perhaps a particular look, a smile, a baby's first steps, the loving smile between a couple at their wedding...

What is often overlooked is capturing photos of loved ones doing everyday things - a picture of them reading the paper, hugging their kids, patting their pet...and sometimes you really don't get the chance to capture those moments again.

I came across this link to Phillip Toledano's site, "Days with My Father".It's a beautiful, poignant reminder of why it's important to take the time to take great photos of those people you most love.

The photos of Phillip's father show the 98-year old throughout the final year of his life, wrapped around the central story of the man's love for his wife who had passed away suddenly in 2006, and the love between father and son.

It's a beautiful story, with simple but very compelling images. Check it out, and then go and take lots of photos of the people you most love!

15 sleeps and counting! Now, which gear to take?

In 15 sleeps, my partner Michael and I will be heading off to Asia on a 3.5 week trip through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. I absolutely cannot wait!

We're spending 5 nights in Bangkok, and will be there for New Year's Eve - it will be so cool to see the fireworks from the top of our hotel, which apparently has a bar, spa and expansive view of the city from the top floor!

Then we pick up an 18 day Intrepid tour called the Best of Cambodia & Vietnam. I haven't travelled with Intrepid, but they run small group tours with no more than 12 people. Here's the itinerary - lots of driving, but SO many fantastic places to see.

Copyright Intrepid Travel -
I've been exploring groups on Flickr to see how other photographers have shot these three very different countries, and am putting together a bit of a shot list. Ages ago, I stumbled across an app called My Shot Lists for Travel, so will also be using this as a prompt to take shots I might have otherwise forgotten.

In exploring through Flickr and photography blogs, I came across the most fantastic time lapse video of Ho Chi Minh City. UK photographer, Rob Whitworth constructed the video from over 10,000 individually shot RAW files - how committed is that! The resulting short video is spectacular, and definitely worth checking out if you're interested in time lapse photography, or the bustling former city of Saigon.

We're also debating what gear to take. We both shoot with Canon gear, and both have the 24-70mm F 2.8 L and 70-200mm f/2.8 L lenses, with a swag of other prime lenses. I learnt from my trip to Japan earlier in the year, that I typically take too much camera gear. Looking back at my photos from Japan, I'm not even sure I used the 70-200mm lens, and it was a heavy chunk of glass to lug around...

I'm sure the debate about gear will continue as we get closer to our departure date. There are still, after all, 15 days left to go.

Stay tuned to the blog as I report on our adventures through the stunning Angkor Wat, bustling Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and the tranquil waters of Halong Bay.

I can't wait!

Playing with the 100Cameras App

I spent last weekend playing tourist in Sydney in between family Christmas lunches and took a photo of the HMAS Vampire at the National Maritime Museum on what was a gorgeous sunny afternoon.

It was an interesting photo, and one which I thought would be good to experiment with in the 100Cameras app which I recently installed on my iPad.

100Cameras is a nifty little app created by travel photographer Trey Ratcliff. Simply import a photo from your media library or one you take using the iPad, and you can then apply one of 100 presets to your image. It's not that different from Lightroom, but I love how you can simply swipe through the library of effects and see how they look on your image.

When you find an effect you like, you can tweak the strength of it, and also wang around with sliders for hard light, overlay, multiple, screen, luminosity etc.

Some of the backgrounds are textures, like rocks, water and brick walls, others play with funky colour and saturation effects, and others do cool things with light and contrast. Some are completely over the top (like the red option i chose below) but it's worth having a play and seeing what's possible.

Can't wait to see how some of these effects look on the photos of Angkor Wat I'll be shooting in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, if you like dabbling with your iPhone and iPad, and want an app that gives you 100 really easy-to-use effects, check out 100Cameras!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Playing with f1.4 - because I can!

Sooo.....after much waiting, my sparkly new Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 lens arrived last week, and the weekend gave me the chance to put it through its paces. What a cracking lens!

Having never shot at f/1.4, I can definitely say it's going to get some getting used to. The manual focus isn't as much of a problem as I thought it might be - it's more of an issue getting the right things into focus at such shallow depth of field.

This series of images shows how the lens blurs the background, and creates bokeh at different apertures. I'm really impressed with the vibrant colours the lens captures. The first image shows my bungled attempt to get anything much into focus (I still like the colours), but the flowers in the foreground get sharper around the f/2 - f/4 range, and the background starts to come to life at around f/8.

Anyway, I'm loving the lens so far - more practice definitely required! And now it's time to get cracking on my 100 Strangers project :)

85mm @ f1.4
85mm @ f/2
85mm @ f/2.8

85mm @ f/4

85mm @ f/8

Zite - a fast way to consume all sorts of news!

I'm loving my iPad! As well as subscribing to a bunch of photography magazines through the Zinio App, I now subscribe to a bunch of photography resources via the Zite App.

Zite aggregates news from my RSS feed and presents it in my own tailored magazine style format on the iPad. I use Google Reader to manage my RSS feeds, and have subscribed to a number of feeds from photography blogs and websites which have interested me over the last few years.

Once you give Zite access to your Google Reader account, it "discovers" your interests based on the feeds you subscribe to, then goes out to the big wide Interwebs to find similar sites from all over the world. It seems to update news items every time you open the App, so there is never any shortage of things to read!!

As well as being FREE, I love Zite because it drags images from the stories, and really presents it like a magazine, rather than a large stream of text. Zite exposes me to sources which I might not have otherwise found, and I love the fact that it sources them from everywhere.

Here's a screen shot of what Zite returned in my photography stream this evening. I also have sections for marketing, social media, traveling, technology and gadgets - its like my own tailored news streams.

I'm also loving the iPad and the fact that my home remains connected while I change broadband providers. Gotta love that!

So - if you want a great app to manage all your sources of information about photography (and anything else of interest to you), check out Zite.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

And so begins my 100 Strangers project!

As soon as I take delivery of my snazzy new Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/85 lens, I've decided to kick off my next photography challenge - a 100 Strangers project.

I love the idea of photography challenges. In 2010, I started a 365 Challenge, where I took a photo (more or less) every day for a year. I learnt so much about my camera gear, different techniques and the type of photos I most like taking - and have been keen to do another challenge of sorts, but I wanted this one to be different.

The Zeiss 85mm lens is sold as a classic portrait lens, and will be perfect for my 100 Strangers project. I'm going to try to shoot the entire project with this lens on my 5D (or a 7D if I buy one before the project ends).

The idea of this project is simply to approach 100 Strangers (over no specific time frame), ask permission to take their photograph, publish the photo on Flickr (and this blog) and write up a bit about their story. The photojournalistic nature of this project really appeals to me, as does the idea of practicing portrait photography in a range of situations.

I'm sure that like the 365 Challenge, there will be ups and downs in my 100 Strangers project. I'm sure there will be photos I love, as well as photos that I later wonder what I was thinking - it's all part of the learning process. There's even a Flickr group for people to share their 100 Strangers project photos and experiences.

Anyway, I can't wait to start. Here's a promotional photo used on the Zeiss site for the 85mm lens. Now - I just to get the lens (4 days and counting!) and find my first stranger :)

Photo Copyright Rene Budde as shown on

Waiting...waiting for my new lens. Hello ZEISS!

It's been a long time between lens purchases, and as much as I love my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L lenses, I've been debating whether to get a specialist macro lens (such as the Canon EF MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x macro lens or the Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 2/100) or a faster prime lens for portraits.

I've been eyeing off Zeiss lenses for some time, and while I think the Zeiss Makro would be an awesome lens, I'm really looking for something with more than 1:1 magnification. The Canon MP-E lens shoots up to 5x magnification! So that lens remains on the stalker list.

But, with some big photography plans in the wings for 2012, I decided that a fast prime would be the better way to go at this stage. I finally settled on the Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/85 lens, and take delivery of it this week! Cue HAPPY DANCE!

According to the Zeiss website, "pinpoints of light in the background envelop the individual and conceal a mysterious message. The Planar T* 1,4/85 lens brings out the best in its subject, while masterfully manipulating both sharpness and soft focus. This classic portrait lens captures people in their surroundings, playing with a range of sharpness, soft focus and contrast effects. Its distinctive circular bokeh is a crucial creative element."

It's a purely manual focus lens, which will be a new experience for me. I use manual focus a bit on my current macro lens, but pretty much stick to auto-focus on the two Canon lenses. I suspect it will force me to slow down when taking my shots - which is a good thing.

Anyway, I'm now waiting (patiently?) for the call from Camera's Direct to let me know this baby is on its way. I've got big plans for this lens...stay tuned for blog post on my photography challenge for 2012!

Memory - going cheap!

Shooting in both RAW and jpeg format consumes a LOT of space of my memory cards, particularly when the combined file size for each image is about 35MG. When I first bought my 5D Mark II, I started with a couple of 8GB cards, which would fit about 230 images. Shoot a wedding from beginning to end, a morning of portraits or a day out in a new city, and those cards fill up pretty quickly!

I had read articles about using larger compact flash cards - the 16GB, 32GB and larger cards all kinda made me nervous about "putting all of my eggs in the one basket" and risking a card failure. An old 4GB card had failed on me a couple of years ago, and while I didn't lose any photos, I chose to stay with 8GB cards.

Speaking with other photographers is always a good thing, and it's interesting to learn where others source the mundane but necessary accessories associated with digital photography. I use only Sandisk cards - and even though it was a Sandisk card that failed, I still believe it's a good brand.

I was referred to Cheap Cheaps, which as the name suggests, pretty much specialises in storage devices of all shapes and sizes. Several months ago, I decided to give a 16GB compact flash card a go, and so far it's been fine - all images present and accounted for. An empty card will fit about 445 images (including the RAW and jpeg variations). I paid about $115 for a 16GB 60MB/s CompactFlash card, and another $10 or so for shipping. Cheap Chips turns around orders really quicky - in fact my order arrived the very next day.

This week, I received my weekly newsletter from B&H Photo in the US, which said their prices on memory cards had plummetted!

I'm SO glad I checked it out, because I found the Extreme Pro version of the 16GB card for USD$65.99, which is nearly half price (and faster) than what I can get from Cheap Chips. With the Australian dollar still being so strong against the Greenback, it was worth it to stock up and pay the $30 in shipping costs.

My new collection of 16GB cards will no doubt get a thrashing during my 3.5 week trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in a couple of months. I'll have about 80GB's worth of card capacity plus my 64GB iPad, which I'm intending to use as a backup.

If you need to stock up on memory cards, check out B&H!

All hail the mighty Canon EOS 5D Mark II!!

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm LOVING the way I can now read a bunch of photography magazines on my iPad, via Zinio.

One of the photography magazines I really enjoy each month is Amateur Photographer, which is published in the UK. This month, it came with a supplement called the 100 Greatest Cameras of All Time.

What a great read! The feature counted down 100 awesome cameras spanning 110 years - the list included film cameras and digital cameras across all brands, as voted by AP readers.

According to AP, its editors created a list of 800 cameras, and then asked its readers to cast a maximum of three votes for the camera they considered to be the greatest of all time. Over a period of four weeks, almost 15,000 votes were cast and a total of 709 models were voted for. The list of 100 was created, and the feature analyses each of them.

It was extremely tempting to race through to the end and see instantly which camera had taken the coveted #1 position...but I restrained myself and wandered through details of the Kodak brownie and some older style Nikon cameras.

I came across the Canon Digital Ixus at #85 - this was my first digital camera, an awesome little machine. I loved how light and small it was - small enough to fit into a handbag and no need to carry around the massive camera bag I now lug everywhere :)

Older model Hasselblad and Leica cameras appeared, and then came the Canon EOS 400D at #70. This was my first DLSR, and was lauded as the first Canon EOS camera to feature built-in sensor cleaning.

As I rolled past the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV at #42 and the 1Ds Mark III at #39, I started to anticpate how high up the list the Canon EOS 5D Mark II would be...still no sign of the Nikon D3X came in at #16 and the new Sony Alpha 77 at #13....then the Nikon D3S, Nikon D700 and Olympus Trip 35...

The Canon EOS 7D appeared at #6 (a camera I'm hoping to buy soon as a second body)....and finally, a few swipes later, the mighty 5D Mark II appeared as THE WINNER - the camera AP readers voted as the Greatest Camera of All Time! Whoohooo!

I loved this camera well before I bought it in 2010, stalked it, tested it, read hundreds of reviews about it, until I finally became a very proud of owner of one last September.

Damien Demolder, the editor of AP wrote of the 5D Mark II: 
"After 150 years of camera production, the 'greatest' should be that which benefits from the culmination of all that has been learned, honed and perfected. Seeing the reaction the EOS 5D Mark II received at its launch, it can hardly be a surprise that it is this pinnacle of technological and design achievement that has been voted the greatest of all time. My congratulations go to Canon, and especially the engineers and designers who worked so hard to bring this example of excellence into the world."
Got to be happy with that! Here's the full page article, with more details about the mighty 5D Mark II. With the newly launched Canon EOS 1DX now on the market, it will be interesting to see the results of next year's Top 100!

These are a few of my favourite things...

Zinio is my new best friend! I'm busily loading the new iPad with loads of photography apps, and came across the Zinio digital magazine app.

I love magazines, and I subscribe to a couple of photography magazines from the UK, but it results in a growing pile of once-read mags which then sit around and gather dust. I'm also on the move - a lot - so the idea of being able to dip into my magazine collection whenever and wherever I feel like it, is very appealing.

It was easy enough to set up a Zinio account, and I was impressed with the fairly broad range of Australian and international titles they have available in digital format.

I love that I can buy individual issues or annual subscriptions, and that most of the magazines have a large back catalogue available to browse through - so if you see a specific edition you like, you can buy it, download it and be reading it in a matter of seconds. It's also a cheap way of testing to see whether you like a particular magazine.

So...I've subscribed to a few (more) photography magazines and am revelling in learning, dribbling over awesome photos, and learning about (yet more) apps. I love that receive an email whenever a new digital edition is ready for me to read, and I really love that I can bookmark interesting bits and pieces, take screen shots and email to people (or post on this blog), share on social media sites, and generally engage more with the content.

Some of the publications are yet to make full use of their content, and make website links listed in the copy live - the more progressive publications let you tap on the link and it throws you straight onto a Safari browser page - that suits me a consumer of this stuff...take me there when I'm really interested, and I'm far more likely to part with cash.

Anyway, here's a screen shot of my current reading list. The Tap series is awesome (and resulted in quite a few iPad app purchases, which I'll blog about at some point - after I've read my eMags).

I'm really not sure how I got by without the iPad. R.I.P Steve Jobs - you really did bring amazing, innovations into the mainstream!

A beautiful country wedding

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of photographing my friend's wedding - but it was particularly special for two reasons.

I have known Kristy since primary school, which makes it a three decade-plus friendship. And I was shooting for the first time in a situation like this, with Michael Coppola, a talented Brisbane photographer, who just happens to be my partner :)

Kristy and her two lovely daughters got ready in the scenic, peaceful surrounds of the Summit Wines Estate in Stanthorpe, about 2.5 hours drive west of Brisbane.

The ceremony was held in winery's bar after a fairly major storm whipped through the area, but thankfully, a log fire kept us all toasty. And in any case, all eyes were on the gorgeous bride and her groom, Stephen. As well as shooting with my 5D II, I picked up Michael's 7D in the middle of the ceremony and was blown away by its fast focus speed - but that's enough for an entire new post. Needless to say, I want one!

Kristy and Stephen had kept details of the entire wedding secret from everyone except the girls, and Michael and I! Guests had been picked up from two hotels in Stanthorpe and bussed to the winery for the ceremony. After some drinks and photos, we all boarded the bus again and headed out to the mystery location - Wallangarra Station, and what an awesome mystery venue it was.

Located on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, the historic station had been chosen to represent the coming together of a couple whose families came almost equally from the two states. There were also some family ties to the region, which made it even more sentimental.

As well as the obvious digs about State of Origin football games, and the general love between Queenslanders and New South Welshmen, one of the funniest quotes of the evening came from the groom, who said at one point, that he was just popping down to NSW for a drink. Who else can claim to have had a wedding reception in two states!

The reception was great - relaxed, with lots of laughs, lollies and love in the old station. I got to catch up with some old school friends and have a giggle about days gone by, between shooting speeches, dancing and all manner of antics from the many kids at the party.

Michael and I agree that we have fairly different styles of shooting, so I can't wait to see how all the photos come together to tell the story of this beautiful day. I do think that having two shooters gives an added depth of coverage to a wedding, or any event for that matter.

To Kristy and Stephen, thank you for letting us share your special day. Have a wonderful honeymoon and we hope you love the photos. And to Michael, I'm happy to shoot with you any day xx

Bridal accessories

My friend Kristy

Kristy and her daughters

Guests take their respective sides of the QLD/NSW border!

Accidental portrait of Michael
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

A new world of photography on the iPad!

I finally joined the iPad brigade this month, and have been exploring lots of photography apps, and also trying to work out how to do blog posts from this awesome new plaything, ahem, I mean business tool.

One article I read talked about The Guardian's Eyewitness app, which is free, and downloads up to 100 stunning photos at a time from the publication's photo library. Each photo has a caption, and also a Pro Tip - perfect for both dribbling over, and learning at the same time.

This was the photo of the day for 1 October.

Having worked out how to take screen shots from the iPad (ie, this photo is a screen shot from the Eyewitness app), I tried to upload it through the Blogger platform via the Safari browser. For whatever reason, it didn't work, but a quick Google search revealed the BlogPress app as a possible solution.

Costing me US$2.99, BlogPress hooks up to my Blogger account, and theoretically let's me post directly to my blog of choice.

The photo upload was quick and simple, and while it doesn't look like I can add meta tags to the post as I can do in my actual Blogger account, it seems to be a great little app for on-the-go posts like this one.

Stay tuned for more photography adventures with the iPad!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Long exposure day shots - hello ND filters!

I love playing with long exposure night shots - my last blog post about star trails sort of covered that, but I also had a bit of fun playing with long exposure day shots the day after we shot star trails in the Glasshouse Mountains.

The scene was Dicky Beach, Caloundra, in the glaring midday sun. It's usually the time of day that "real landscape photographers" avoid.... they typically shoot at the really anti-social times of the day and the dark. And cold. the slightly more socially acceptable times of "golden hour", the hour or so around dawn and dusk when magical things happen with light.

So, while midday was fabulous from a "being awake" perspective, it was apparently cacko for shooting reasonable beach scenes.

Hello neutral density filters! According to Hoya's website, "in conditions of extreme light intensity, such as sunshine on snowy mountains or on the beach, or when using a camcorder, ND (Neutral Density) filters are recommended as essential." You would expect a filter manufacturer to say that!

But...ND filters reduce the amount of light hitting the camera's sensor, which allows you to reduce shutter speeds and decrease depth of field.

Ages ago, I bought a Hoya NDx4 and NDx8, which decrease aperture by 2 and 3 stops respectively.

In the shots below, I was using my 5DII with a 24-70mm lens (1st two photos) or the 70-200mm (3rd prd photo), together with a stacked 4x ND filter, 8x ND Filter and a circular polarising filter.

The first photo shows the scene as it actually was (f/22, 1/8, ISO 100).

The photo below shows the scene with the 24-70mm lens, and the stacked ND and circular polarising filters (f/22, 1/4 sec, ISO 50).

This photo below shows the scene with the 70-200 mm lens, and the stacked ND and circular polarising filters (f/32, 1.6 sec, ISO 50 at 125mm), using the in-camera monochrome setting with a sepia filter. I have not tended to use this lens much for landscapes, but I loved that it let me stop down to f/32 and result in a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds. This slow shutter speed created the blur in the waves - and is my favourite image from the day.

This is another image I took using the two stacked ND filters together with the polarising filter, taken on an extremely overcast day.

A long time between blog posts...a new toy, and star trails!

It's been a *very* long time between blog posts, but I'm back on the bloggin' bandwagon and talking about a new toy my favourite photographer recently gave me.

I love doing long exposure night shots, and I've been experimenting more with star trails, so the aputure digital remote timer was a perfect gift for me. Mine actually has a cable which plugs into the cable release jack of my 5D II body, but it kinda looks like the one below.

This baby lets me set the camera to take say ten, five minute shots without actually touching the camera. You simply set the camera, set the timer, hit the go button and off it need to touch the camera, no need to use the iPhone or any other device to time your shot - with a few twiddles the camera goes off and does its own thing.

I had read about stacking star trail shots as an alternate method to the *very* long exposure shots I was used to doing. Stacking shots is where you take a bunch of images of the stars and then use software to "stack" or merge them together to form a classic star trail image.

I created this image from six, 60-second exposures (shot up at the Glasshouse Mountains), then stacked them using some awesome, FREE software called Startrails - it's available for download here.The final image would have looked better if I'd have stacked more images in the process, but it was enough to test the new toy and give me a feel for what it could do. I love it - much better than pfaffing around with a standard cable release!

Now...I just need to go find me some more stars...

37440 exposures to capture the night sky - that's dedication!

The details of the Scorpius constellation, right, and the Milky Way,
are seen in this photograph provided by Nick Risinger of Photo: AP
About two weeks ago, this photo of the Milky Way emerged - I first saw it on Facebook. I read more about how the amazing photo was created, and am really impressed at how incredibly dedicated the photographer, Nick Risinger was to create it.

According to the AP article republished on, Nick "programmed his six cameras to track the stars as they moved across the sky and simultaneously snapped thousands of photos.

He then stitched 37,440 exposures together into a spectacular, panoramic survey sky that he posted online two weeks ago. The photo reveals a 360-degree view of the Milky Way, planets and stars in their true natural colors. Viewers can zoom in on portions of the 5000-megapixel image to find Orion or the Large Magellanic Cloud."

I can't imagine the computer processing power you'd need to create a 5,000Mb image. Or the fact that Nick travelled some 100,000kms over the course of the year to position himself to take the photos!

The AP article, and Nick's site at Photopic Sky Survey, go into a whole lot of detail about Nick's mega shoot.

What a captivating project. What a labour of love! I love examples of such dedication to a photographic cause.

365 Challenge #357 - Sunset at Port Macquarie

My extended family has an annual tradition of meeting up in the gorgeous seaside town of Port Macquarie each year.

Members of the family drive in from Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Sydney, and we hang out, catch up on goss, and invariably put away a few quiet drinkies on the scenic balcony of the Royal Hotel.

It's always a fun weekend, with the littlies and oldies - and this year's Corroborree 2011 was no exception.

Here's a shot I took of the sunset over the river, from the rooftop of our apartment. Looking forward to the legendary Port Mac weekend next year :)