Travel and Photo Tips
Travelling the Red Centre
I have recently taken a trip to the Red Centre in Australia. There are a few things that I came across and could be useful to whoever coming this way.
As most of you might know, Australia's Red Centre covers such landmarks as the Ayer's Rock (Uluru), Kata Tjuta, the MacDonnell Ranges, and Kings Canyon, with Alice Springs as the major township in the region.
Whatever you do in the area, whether you are travelling in a car or by foot, you would need to bring two things all the time with you, namely, water and fly net. To avoid dehydration, we are told to drink a litre of water every hour. As such, a water bottle is inevitable.
The next thing we learnt about on arrival was the fly net. Don't worry, the flies would remind you of that in no time. If you want to save a bit of money, consider bringing a nylon mesh the like of those used for bouquets.
It is always a good idea to take a broad brimmed hat with you, and have long sleeves to protect your arms from the blazing sun.
Sunrise and Sunset
Watching sunrise and sunset would most certainly be on everyone's agenda visiting the place. The tourist information at the Uluru town centre has a map suggesting the best places for viewing. It is of course very useful. However, please be mindful that the indications are all in terms of seeing direct sunlight throwing onto the rock(s). In other words, if you are expecting to see the silhouette effect, you would have to interpret the indications in reverse.
It didn't take me long to notice that the colour of the earth there shifts invariably at different times of the day. It can range from ordinary to exceptionally stunning, depending a lot on the strength, and the angle of sunlight throwing on it. For the brilliance one would expect of the outback colours (the red and the orange colours in particular), the hours under stronger sunlight would generate best results.
The other thing I observed is that the metering through the camera might be "fooled" in a similar way as in the snow environment. To enable optimum brilliance in the colours, I found that I need to adjust the EV by increasing one-third stop or even in some cases two-thirds of a stop.
Rim Walk at Kings Canyon
The Rim Walk is a must for everyone visiting the place. It takes about 3.5 hours to finish and is definitely worthwhile. Likewise, for the Creek Walk which takes an hour to finish.
The best time range for photography in this case would be when the sun is directly overhead.
You would have the advantage of the brilliant colours (as I mentioned earlier), and also avoid the extraordinary harsh contrast between the lit up areas of the Canyon and those in the shadow.
Flies on the Lens
Last but not the least, please keep an eye on the flies which somehow seems to be in front of the lens or hovering on the glass of the lens whilst you shoot. It definitely pays to check your result every time.
Live life, Junius.
p.s. To travel light, I brought 2 lenses with me. However, for most of the time, I found that the combination of my Nikon D800e and the wide angle zoom 14-24mm f/2.8 lens suffice. Showing here is a snapshot of my gear in action.
p.p.s. click here to see more selected images from the trip.
When I searched the term 'travel essentials" on the net, I was quite surprised that none of the following items were mentioned (at least not in the top few posts on the first page). That's why I would like to make a special mention here.
Extension Socket Board and Adaptor -- travelling without battery/power could be pretty frustrating if not troublesome. My way of sorting this out is the use of a long extension board with at least 6 universal socket positions.
It is not uncommon that people on the road might carry a few adaptors for the various devices they have. For me, I need only one universal adaptor, that is, for the extension board.
Once I check in to my room, I would pull out my extension board and start recharging my devices. Usually I could take care of all my items at the same time -- including my mobile phones, camera battery packs, shaver, my notebook, and even my electric kettle. There is no need to wait for a second round. I could not think of anything simpler to do the job.
Travel Electric Kettle -- the idea of having my own electric kettle is so reassuring. I wouldn't consider using the kettles from motels or hotels. They are often full of scaling, or flecks, or some kind of foreign substance around the base. They don't look inviting at all.
The one I have holds half a litre a time (see picture). If you also like having hot water or drinks during your travels, this size kettle is highly recommended. If possible, try to find one that has all the heating elements concealed. This surely helps cleaning and hygiene.
A Sweat Towel -- This is one of my best tools whenever I have a photo shoot outdoors. It is so versatile to use.
It can be the sweat towel that I hang around the neck on a hot day. Even in a cold day, I can use it as the scarf to keep my neck warm. When it is very windy, I can wrap it round my head to secure my cap or beret from being blown away. (This was exactly what I did in France when I needed the beret to keep my head warm but had yet to secure it from the wind. It could look a bit funny, I know.) If I shoot along the coast, I can use it to cover my camera and lens from the salty mist from the sea. Likewise, I can use it to protect the camera and lens from the rain in between shootings. In doing so, I usually tie a knot around the strap on one side and use the rest of the towel to wrap around the camera. And, last but not the least, it always comes in handy whenever I have a cleaning job at hand.
28 Degrees Mastercard -- if you live in Australia, I would highly recommend this credit card for your overseas travels. What makes it so appealing is that there is no fees or charges for use: no annual fee, no currency conversion fees and no international transaction fees. In terms of exchange rates, this one seems to be the modest of the lot. In other words, you won't be losing as much money in the exchange as you might have experienced with the usual credit card providers. I have also tried to compare this card with the major travel cards on the market. Not surprisingly, this card comes out in front too.
This is a very encouraging find. It is worth checking out before the next trip abroad. By doing things right, we could easily save ourselves some 10% or more on transactions by avoiding all those unjustified fees and rates.
Hope this helps.
Live Life, Junius.
The Goodness of a Bean Bag for the Camera
When you are out and about doing pictures, have you ever blamed yourself (figuratively speaking) for not bringing a tripod with you for that extra stability you so badly need for the shot? This is particularly true in a low-light situation. Any vibration can make or break an otherwise show stopper.
However, it doesn’t mean to say that having a tripod on the road would be a total assurance either. As photography enthusiasts, we would most certainly come across situations where we barely have enough time to set the tripod up in place.
A good example is the picture I did and shown here. It was taken alongside the seashore of Queenscliff, Victoria during my trip to the Great Ocean Road and beyond. When we arrived there, it was already quite late in the evening. The sun was setting but was covered by a lot of clouds over the distant horizon. When we were about to leave the place, we suddenly spotted the lovely orange globe coming out in the distance, but descending very quickly. It barely took a couple of minutes from the time we spotted it to its total disappearance from the horizon. If not because of my bean bag, I wouldn’t have this picture to show.
I find the bean bag such a humble but supportive companion. It is so handy for virtually all circumstances. Travelling along the coast means that it is usually quite windy. Sometimes, even if there is a handrail, a fence or a tree trunk to lean onto, you can still feel a bit of vibration coming through on the support. However, once you put the bean bag in place, you can immediately feel the good firmness there. I could easily do 1/30 second with confidence.
The bean bag I have is home made, done by my wife. The size is roughly about A4 in the width, and about three-quarters A4 as in length. It is not too small and not too big, enough to provide a good cushion for my camera, the Nikon D3. We filled it with rice. The friction and the density provided by the rice is superb. So far, I still have not come across anything as “tight” and “good support”.
Whilst on the subject, if you are looking for a heavy-weight version of the bean bag, I would highly recommend a visit to this page to see a review of the “Apex Bean Bag” (not affiliate link). You never know, you might be hooked !
Live life, Junius.