I thought I’d share excerpts from my diary that I kept during our last trip – interspersed with some pictures of course. This first section is more a lesson on the things NOT to forget when going overseas , but first, a picture to distract you 🙂
We had been preparing for this trip for several months beforehand and one of the most ironic things to have occurred is that we completely forgot a major detail : that my passport had expired and that Charlotte’s was expiring in 5 months. We had all of our clothing packed, all of the locations we were going to visit packed, all of the people we were going to meet organised and everything was all set with one last step to check in online on Saturday night before our planned departure on Sunday morning . WRONG. I couldn’t check in and kept wondering why until I looked with horror that my passport had expired in June!!!!! Marianne and I were deeply upset as no doubt, this would have been the best lead up to a holiday that we’ve had with good health and so many things to look forward to on this trip. I just had a sense of profound hopelessness as I went through the motions of ringing the DFAT, Air New Zealand and asked if anyone through social media knew of anything possible that I could do to get on a plane within 12 hours. Not happening…..
Early on Sunday morning, we had to break the news to the kids who really didn’t seem to mind!! To get our minds off the fact that we should actually be travelling, we decided to head to Monarto zoo instead. So this actually, was the start of our holiday albeit back home and not in San Francisco. It was a great distraction and that night, sleep did not come well as I concocted plans to obtain a new passport urgently on compelling grounds. Favours needed to be pulled and the guys from Nisi were amazing in dealing with that with a cover letter from Andrew Code (from Nisi Australia) stating that I was on an equipment testing trip that could not be cancelled. I am forever grateful to them for that act of kindness , any image from this trip is Nisi’s to use as we literally would not have been there without that letter. As a side note, I realise that many people were trying to be helpful but I managed to bust a heap of travel myths that were thrown at me (all in good faith of course).
- You do NOT need to have a valid passport for 6 months when visiting the USA or Canada (just valid for time of travel)
- You do NOT need to have a valid passport for 6 months on re entering Australia (just valid on reentry date)
- ESTA visa is practically instant and not a 72 hour wait. Same for the new Canadian equivalent.
Monday morning was the date of the imagined inquisition I would have from the office. This never eventuated. I turned up just after opening time at 830am and was 1 hour early. Fortunately the first appointment was running late so I snuck in and managed to very quickly talk my way into getting the passport done by that day! I was still not counting my chickens as I wanted to actually feel happy again only after I had my passport in hand. This occurred at about 2pm after we took another distraction to Marion aquatic centre. These last two days with the kids made me think that even if we were at home doing stuff with them every day, that wouldn’t be such a bad holiday!
Monday afternoon was a happy one . With passport in hand, we managed to rebook our flights (albeit at a loss of big $$$ due to the specials that we booked our original flights on). I contacted everyone to tell them that we were on our way and they were all extremely sympathetic and even willing to bend their schedules to meet our unusual circumstance. Brent Lok in California was particularly friendly offering to shift our dates at the cost that we had already paid!. Sleep did come well on Monday night and 28 hours later, this was the actual start of our holiday.
Tuesday October 25: (Aus and USA)
The flight was always going to be a tiring one but I must admit that the kids were better than predicted (though Jaime was a handful). From Adelaide to Auckland, Jaime did manage a tiny nap when lying flat with a blanket over the top of the seats. Despite very little rest, they managed the very quick turnaround time in Auckland airport very well. As we left Auckland to board our skycouch seats, the weather was epic there with rainbows and pink skies surrounding us – using up our trip’s light mojo dammit!!!!
The long haul was on two sky couches. Marianne and Jaime in one and Charlotte and me in the other. I think that it definitely has a comfort advantage with 2 occupants but with three, it would be of questionable benefit. Better than premium economy I suspect. Out of all of us, Charlotte got the best sleep while Jaime only had about 2 hours of solid sleep for the whole flight. I doubt that Marianne and I actually had any sleep ! Food was good, service was good and overall, couldn’t really fault Air New Zealand for their effort on the flight.
Our arrival at SFO was a very uneventful one in the late morning. We managed to get our rental quickly, head over to the rental accommodation at Mill Valley. Throughout that afternoon, things started to clear and looked as though it might actually be a decent sunset. When we arrived at our accommodation that our preprogrammed GPS expertly pointed us to ,we instantly regretted (further) our inability to spend the full three days at this location . It was beautifully set among the redwoods and had a great ambience to it. It would have been an absolutely amazing location to get over jetlag and relax. As it was, we had an early dinner at 430 in the evening and put the girls to bed. I went out for a shoot at Rodeo beach which fizzled badly and when I returned at 7pm , all were fast asleep. By the time I managed to get everything ready for bed, it was 9pm and by that time , the girls’ body clocks were far from adjusted. We had to get them out of bed at 10pm to play for an hour before they finally did go back to bed at around 11 something for the rest of the night. The next morning, they were sleeping like the dead when we woke them for our airport run.
Two travel tips :
- Loading POI’s onto your GPS is easily done through the site POI editor which saves your points of interest as GPX
- Travelling to the USA , you can prepay a USA SIM (from Australia) to insert as you land from Mobi Passport.
Wednesday Oct 26 : O Canada!
After cajoling the kids into action, we dashed off to the airport and returned the car with no hassles. Golden light was glowing across the golden gate bridge and the kids loved the airtrain ride to the airport passing through all of the terminals. Check in was relatively painless though security was quite a painstakingly long process. No tanties in the line, nothing but well behaved kids ! We had some time on our hands afterward due to a slight delay on our outbound plane to Calgary. The plane itself was a small one with 2 x 2 seat rows in economy but made up for it with leg room. The lack of sleep did catch up with everyone as Jaime, then Charlotte fell asleep on the relatively short 2.5 hour flight.
Upon arrival, there was indeed no issue with Charlotte’s passport expiry and after a scare that one of our bags hadn’t arrived (it actually had but was placed upside down on the conveyor belt fooling me!). Rent-a-wreck rental pick up went smoothly as we ventured out into an overcast Calgary evening. For some reason, the rental operator seemed a bit paranoid that we didn’t want to take out collision damage waiver? We haven’t to date with any other company?? Oh the irony as we would find out later in the trip ……With the GPS set, the kids excited to be in Canada , we headed off to Banff!
As the mountains approached, everyone was falling asleep in the car (except for me since I was gawking at the beautiful mountains approaching looking for any hint of a sunset stop that didn’t eventuate due to poor light). By the time we arrived in the beautiful township of Banff, set beneath Cascade Mountain, it was past 8pm and pretty cold by our standards! The choice for places to eat was overwhelming and so , with a sigh, we resigned ourselves to a meal at MacDonalds (which would be our last !). Check in at Inns of banff into a three bedroom unit was also uneventful and we settled for what we hoped would be a good night’s sleep. And so it was for the kids who slept until 10 the following morning but not for us as we didn’t get to bed until past midnight despite severe deprivation. We were at last, in Canada !!!
It’s time for a year’s end post from team everlook ! With another extension to family expected early in 2014 and our ‘retirement’ from wedding photography, we can probably say that 2014 will be a less productive year than this year has been. Let’s jump straight into some favourites of ours from different locations and genres!
Four weddings and a retirement.
We only photographed 4 weddings this year and actually attended 2 as guests which was such a nice change! We have tried to emulate our landscape ‘style’ of vibrant imagery into wedding photography as well as incorporate some landscape shooting techniques too.
The local weather lottery!
This year, the weather gods have been both kind and cruel at their whim. I tried to venture out on most weeks to participate in a 52 week project. I doubt I will be able to commit to this in 2014 for the reasons stated above but this year did take me to many local sites . The timing of these trips was all premeditated depending on work and other commitments so it was a good exercise to find ways of overcoming unfavourable conditions and maximising good conditions. These are some of my favourites from the ‘one shoot’ trips around home.
The weekend warrior jobs
A couple of times a year, Marianne and I set aside a weekend away. For 2013, we only managed to do this twice and on both occasions we had some dramatic weather to deal with. At Robe, sunny days became sultry and overcast while at Lake Bonney, the whole of South Australia was going through a cold snap during which it actually snowed on our 723m high Mount Lofty (well, not really snow but semi solid precipitation which the snow-naive might call snow!) A slightly longer weekend away took us to Merredin in WA where Marianne and I had the nerve-wracking honour of being speakers at the WAPF annual meeting.
The long trips :
Our first trip in the year was a return to New Zealand’s South Island. In 2012, we did the ‘typical’ alpine itinerary of travelling through the Tekapo, Mount Cook , Wanaka and Fjordland. This year we decided to visit the west coast and the north of the island. With a mobile 2 year old who wanted to explore by herself, we actually found it more difficult than in 2012 when Charlotte needed to be carried anywhere and quite often was asleep on our back as an 8 month old. We finished the trip off with some R&R in Sydney.
Our second trip of the year was to the Pacific Northwest (scroll back in the blog for more details!) . This region definitely NEEDS a revisit at some point in the future. It has given me a good incentive to stay fit and healthy such that if all things go well, and our children love the outdoors as we do, we might be able to walk as a family! The children would also appreciate and remember Disneyland more than Charlotte at this age I suspect.
Other projects /publications /commendations:
2013 started with a portfolio feature in Landscape Photography Magazine. We are currently also writing a piece for Digital SLR photography magazine. In between , we have had 5 postcards chosen for circulation by Pikitia , based in New Zealand. Our image of Robe won 4th place in the Epson Panorama Awards amateur division , we’ve been listed as a top 100 landscape photographer to follow, and our fan base seems to expanded internationally! It was such a thrill to know that photographers such as Miles Morgan and Tula Top had heard of us when we inquired about meeting in the USA 🙂 We were also honoured to be guest speakers at two local camera clubs where we were able to hone our presentations in the lead-up to being key note speakers at the WAPF annual event at Merredin.
Charlotte of course is our main focus on life at present. So far, we could not have asked for more from our adorable two year old who despite the odd tantrums and grizzles, never fails to put a smile on our face. We look forward to the years to come and in the near future, the challenge of reacquainting ourselves to the care of a new born in April . Hopefully, during this ‘down time’ of trips, we might be able to compile more ebooks and guides! Cheers to 2014 🙂
I’m speeding up the end of this series to the USA as I do feel I would like write about a few other topics! Here’s a summary of the rest of our trip and some tips about each image.
Chapter 15: Any ‘ole mountain
When I was doing my virtual research for walks around the Mount Hood area, I came across several pictures of Mount Hood with Mirror Lake in the distance below. I actually thought people were ‘taking the mickey’ of the walk by saying that they climbed ‘Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. Now I know it is a real place, and I also know that it isn’t just any ‘ole mountain. It happens to have a superb view of the whole area. Our accommodation was the little town of Government Camp which meant that I had very easy access to this trail and decided to do it in the dark. There were no issues with path finding but for my recovering lungs, it was a challenge to walk at my usual pace up the mountain. The path itself is never particularly steep or challenging but more unrelenting in its slow climb.
Photo tips to achieve sunstars : Try to have the sun partially obscured. Shoot at a narrow aperture (f16 or smaller). Have clean glass. Have less glass (exposure blend if you have to rather than having layers of filters which can create extra flare). Place an object (like your finger) over the source of light to prevent flare over the rest of the image. Consider taking shots on either side of your desired image (like a panorama) with your flare suppression technique such that any residual flare can be recovered from an overlapping image source.
Chapter 16: Mojo returns
By this stage of the trip, we had thankfully returned to health but Marianne’s recovery took somewhat longer as the pregnancy no doubt also took it’s impact on the course of influenza. I was glad that some time while in the Mount Hood area, her mojo for photography returned. Our second day in the Mount Hood area was spent doing a beautiful hike to Tamanawas falls. The trailhead was about 30 minutes drive from Government camp and ascends slowly through lush forest scenes toward the falls. At the time of of our visit, the fall colours were among the most vivid we had seen all trip and Charlotte certainly appreciated the walk from her seat on my back. She was so comfortable that she once again fell asleep during the walk! Whenever this happens, we adjust our plans to wander around for an extra hour to give her undisturbed sleep. While we were doing this, we were able to find many species of fungus which we attempted to photograph. This fungus exploration and the walk’s photography was largely led by Marianne while I kept the paces going to lullaby Charlotte’s ongoing snooze. The evening was once again completely clear and so, we stayed home while munching some fries and spending some down time watching TV.
Phototip on shooting waterfalls and foilage: Often the wind will be blowing and moving foilage so your long exposures of the water will be accompanied by blurred leaves. You can take separate images at higher iso or larger apertures with a shorter shutter speed to overcome this problem but when you do so, try to compose to have the leaves not directly opposed to water as your shorter exposures will also include shorter exposures of the water motion.
Chapter 17: Pumpkin Mania!
The drive from Mount Hood to Mitchell is a beautiful one through agricultural land and a gradual departure from alpine scenery. Along the way, the autumn colours were blazing as were the oranges of pumpkin fields the likes of which we never see back home!
Phototip on shooting landscapes with long focal lengths : One of my favourite aspects of shooting landscapes at long focal lengths is to achieve what is known as ‘compression of planes’. Simply put, the perspective of a highly ‘zoomed’ image minimises the apparent distance between different objects of interest. In the shot below, Mount Hood to the naked eye , though visible and looming appears much more distant than this image portrays.
Chapter 18: Dali-esque landscapes:
The painted hills are an amazing array of bald , eroded hills in Central Oregon. They are part of the larger John Day Fossil Beds national monument. We based ourselves in the town of Mitchell in some beautiful holiday homes. (www.paintedhillsvaction.com) . The weather was once again clear which meant that the landscapes did not compete with dramatic skies for attention.
Phototip for choosing lighting direction: At given locations, consider how much of the detail in the landscape you want. In front lit scenarios shooting into light, it can be difficult to extract detail from the landscape due to broad dynamic range but the results can often be striking in terms of contrast. In back lit (or side lit) situations, the scene is often easier to capture and the risk of losing detail from flare or incorrect exposure is lessened. Side light can also provide some interesting shadows. At the time we visited, the painted hills overlook appeared to be best shot at sunset for a slightly side lit appearance.
Chapter 19: From nowhere :
The next leg of our journey took us back to Eastern Washington with much more arid landscapes passing by the car window. Our final destination was Colfax in the Palouse region. Naturally we had been attracted by the rolling hills and greenery we had seen in previous images but we were visiting at the wrong time of year for those conditions. The land instead comprised of tilled earth with groves of autumn colours speckling the undulating land. Just over one hour from Colfax, Palouse Falls makes a sudden appearance seemingly out of nowhere. There was no hint of gaping chasms or any flowing water for miles around before arriving at the state park.
Phototip for shooting icons or well shot locations: Certain vantage points do offer the best view and most pleasing composition of a given scene. I found this to be the case at Palouse Falls with the ‘traditional’ top down view of the falls seemingly squeezed in on the left of frame. When visiting locations like this, I do like to photograph ‘that’ scene but try to achieve something else either by exploring the area more thoroughly or visiting at different times of the day. These are some of the takes of these magnificent falls :
Chapter 20 : Grass is greener
We had a very relaxed three days based in Colfax where we didn’t adventure past Steptoe Butte to the north and Kamiak Butte to the south. The skies were once again crystal clear on the first two dawns there before unexpectedly firing up for the last morning when we didn’t have plans to shoot!
Phototip for travelling and sunsets: We had been getting used to a sunset at approximately 6pm for most of our trip and planned a sunset shoot on our first evening in the Palouse for about that time. However, remember that when travelling east within a time zone, all times are pushed back to a varying degree! In turned out that the sunset was about 20 minutes earlier in the Palouse than around the Portland area meaning that we arrived late on the scene. The safest thing to do of course, is to double check with tools such as ‘The photographers’s ephemeris’ rather than make assumptions….
Chapter 21: Happy returns
For the last two nights of our trip, the original plan was to visit the Stevens Pass area and possibly do a strenuous return hike to one of the alpine lakes in the area. However, given that our initial visit to Mount Rainier was plagued by influenza and the closure of the National Park, we decided to return to the area to close out the trip. It would also mean a shorter drive to the airport on our last morning. We are very glad that we chose this option as we were finally able to appreciate the park itself and in good health. From Reflection Lake, Mount Rainier itself initially proved to be elusive before bearing too much of herself with the absence of any cloud on our last day. Of the two lakes we visited, I’d say the view of Mount Rainier is more complete from Bench Lake even though it is a short muddy slog down to its shores.
Phototip for shooting alpine conditions: Simply this, don’t give up on the light! On the first evening at Mount Hood, there was constant drizzle and no visible sky as we drove from east to west across the park. Returning to Reflection Lake at sunset, there seemed to be no chance of any light or visibility of Mount Rainier but out of the blue, some spectacular light fell across the mountain albeit shrouded in cloud.
Chapter 22: Transition back to Urban life.
“Charlotte , do you like forests or the city?” . To which Charlotte repeatedly responded “Charlotte like forest”. That’s our girl! After leaving the crisp cool autumn of the Pacific Northwest on a beautifully clear morning, we headed to our last stop before returning to Adelaide. Marianne and Charlotte had not been to Los Angeles before while I had visited as an emo-driven teenager who did not necessarily appreciate. In a short visit there, we planned to visit Hollywood itself before spending some time in Disneyland. Even though those aspects of our visit were fantastic, we also encountered the most stress while here for the entire three weeks away. We had to wait in a rental car queue for 2 hours while trying to prevent a 2 year old meltdown. Driving itself wasn’t as bad as I had imagined but on our departure, we experienced lengthy delays due to a shooting at LAX a few hours prior to our departure! On the positive, Charlotte enjoyed placing hands and feet at the Chinese theatre and surprisingly enjoyed most of the fast moving rides at Disneyland! On our last night, I managed to talk my way into obtaining a ticket to Mickey’s Halloween party after hours which was absolutely packed on Halloween evening.
Phototip for photographing your toddler on the go!: As posing and standing still are not two things toddlers are accustomed to doing, your shutter speed needs to be relatively high. Regarding movement to and from the camera, picking very wide apertures is highly likely to miss focus no matter what funky artsy shot you might be aiming for. After all I’m more taking images of Charlotte as a record rather than artistic statement. For those reasons, I try not to open up below F4, I try not to reduce shutter speed below 1/100 (even when we’re posing for a family shot) and adjust iso accordingly.
Phototip for shooting multiple trails of fireworks: Prior to the display commencing, work out what exposure you need for the background at a low’ish iso. Then probably halve that exposure time (for 1 stop less light) and keep that exposure time in your mind. When the fireworks start, leave the camera in bulb exposure mode with a black card over the camera until fireworks are launched. Count how long you have left the black card off for and end the exposure once you’ve reached your approximate exposure duration after varying salvos of fireworks. I hope that works for you as it did for me during Mickey’s fireworks over the castle!
Lastly, Charlotte has the last word in this video of her trip experiences!
Well, that rounds out a fantastic trip to the USA and hopefully we’ll be able to return in a few years time with an older Charlotte and sibling at the same stage of development 🙂 Have a merry christmas and happy new year everyone!
-D & M & C & (yet to be named infant!)