Daibutsu of Kamamura

Daibutsu of Kamamura

Back when I lived in Tokyo for a couple of years one of my favourite places to visit was the ancient capital of Kamakura, which is a short rail trip from the modern capital.

The Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha) is a magnificent structure, dating back to the 13th century.

The Daibutsu was originally housed in a hall, which was twice destroyed/damaged in storms during the 14th century, before being washed away in a 1498 tsunami. The Daibutsu has now been an outdoor feature for some 521 years!

The challenge for photography here is the crowds that flock to visit this site throughout the year. Weekends in particular are crazy busy in the area.

To counter the crowds, I setup to incorporate the base, which is actually a couple of metres above the surrounding ground level and then waited patiently to have the fewest number of people in shot. I have then cleaned up a few errant individuals in Photoshop.

The day we visited was actually quite a rainy day, and this provided a dramatic sky (and kept the crowds down a little).

I highly recommend a visit to Kamakura to any visitor to Japan.

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom CC, Photoshop CC

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Epic Valley

Epic Valley

Epic Valley

This image of an epic valley near Wanaka demonstrates the grandeur of the landscapes to be found the South Island of New Zealand.

This image was created during a photo tour, and accessing this wonderful spot at any time (let alone for an amazing sunset) was only possible from having participated in the photo tour.

The sunset was simply awesome, and bringing this to life in the final image took some work. To be honest I might revisit this again in the future.

All in all I was happy with the composition, but feel that a foreground object would add some interest. But the reality is that the scene is epic enough to carry itself!

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Torre de Hercules

Torre de Hercules

Hercules’ Tower (Torre de Hecules) is the oldest Roman lighthouse that is still in use today.

Located in the city of A Coruna in Spain’s Galicia region, the lighthouse was built in the 2nd century (CE).

This image was created in the morning of a cloudless summer’s day. Although many photographers prefer some cloud to provide contrast in the sky, I actually like a clear blue sky, at least sometimes.

In these conditions a polarising filter is an important part of the toolkit.

Image was processed using Lightroom CC and Photoshop, and there was some distortion correction and a small amount of object (people) removal applied.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
  • L: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
  • E: Lightroom, Photoshop
Marina Bay Three

Marina Bay Three

In my opinion, Singapore is one of the most incredible places for city scape photography, with the magnificent Marina Bay Sands hotel complex being one of the most incredible features in this stunning city.

The whole Singapore Downtown Core area, including Marina Bay contains a plethora of sights and photography sites and I could (and have) spent many hours exploring the area by day and night, and of course during the golden and blue hours.

While much of my photography is in the golden and blue hours, unusually this one is taken during the mid-afternoon sun. A circular polarising filter and some colour correction in post have helped in attaining an image that has pop.

As with most images shot with standard lenses, this one had some quite noticeable distortion, which I corrected using the built in tools in Lightroom CC – on the iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil. This has to be the easiest way of correcting distortion I’ve experienced. Of course it is important to leave plenty of space around structures that are going to be straightened as there will be some loss as you adjust distorted images.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Gog and Magog

Gog and Magog

The Twelve Apostles, near Port Campbell on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, is an incredible part of the Australian southern coastline.

Gog and Magog

While not technically part the Twelve Apostles, which are behind me while shooting this image, these two rock mounts—known as Gog and Magog—are wonderful features in their own right, particularly in the dawn’s morning light.

This coastline is stunning, carved out by millennia of waves and wind coming up from the Southern Ocean.

Some of the cliffs and sea mounts have collapsed in recent years, meaning that many vantage points are potentially dangerous. The natural vegetation also needs some protection, so for these two reasons it is important that photographers stick to the appropriate viewing points.

These points provide good views, although they are popular, so you need to get there extra early to find a spot and setup so that you are ready for the light.

My intention on this morning was to shoot the Twelve Apostles actual, but I’ve always made it a rule to turn around and look behind me. On this day it really paid off, providing me with a whole other composition.

View this image on Flickr

Finding Fuji-san

Finding Fuji-san

We visited Japan in September 2018, and we were greeted with typical September in Japan weather—overcast and often rainy. Kind of what you might expect when you visit in the latter part of the typhoon season.

One of our goals was to take in some of the spectacular views of Fuji-san, but the weather certainly limited our options. You have to approach this kind of objective with a healthy sense of humour, a dose of persistene, and planning to give yourself the best chance of winning.

In an effort get great views, we booked a few nights at Kawaguchiko, a famous location for views of Japans iconic mountain. Having three nights here meant we had maximum chance of seeing Fuji-san, and we got to stay in a nice Japanese style hotel in a really beautiful part of Japan.

One of our goals was to see (and photograph) the famous vista taking in the Chureito Pagoda,with Fuji-san in the background. Instead we got stunning views of the pagoa against a dramatic sky. Happy with the image, and will have to go back for the iconic view.

Chureito Pagoda

On the second day we took a trip up the Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway more for the experience and views of the lake, not really expecting to see Fuji-san. Happily we were greeted with our first glimpses of the mountain, peeking out from behind the clouds.

First Glimpse of Fuji

On the third day I got up at sunrise and walked down to the Lakeside from the hotel, hoping to see Fuji-san, but expecting to shoot the lake. I was greeted with this view, and worked hard to find a scene that had a beautiful reflection.

Reflections of Fuji-san

One of the keys of landscape photography is the willingness to spend at least a few days at any one location, maximising your chances of getting the shot.

So I was pretty happy with this.

Now its clear that visiting in September means that you are visiting in Autumn, and the iconic snow peaks of Fuji-san are mostly melted, and of course you have higher chances of overcast weather. On the plus side, crowds were small.

Every season has something to offer, and I am very happy with the beautiful reflections of an iconic mountain.

Malta’s Blue Arch

Malta’s Blue Arch

The Blue Arch in Malta is a spectacular location for wonderful seascape images.

There are multiple compositions here so it pays you to get the iconic images, and then move around and find something that helps to tell your story.

For me, the ‘Blue’ story in this location is that of the sea. So I composed to show a key aspect of the arch, with lots of blue sea (and a little blue sky) as the negative space. The little island in the background helped to provide scale.

Malta as a whole is one of the most spectacular places I’ve visited, and present countless photo opportunities, including stunning seascapes, a rich history and a very diverse culture.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Back in 2015 I visited the U.K. (among a number of other countries1), and visited Stonehenge.

This place is set up for tourists, with a major visitors centre and car park a couple of kilometres from the actual site, with constant people carriers ferrying visitors back and forth. Or you could walk (which my colleagues and I did).

With the crowds you might think that it would be hard to find a composition with few people. But if you worked your angles carefully and shot tight, it was possible to have just a couple of people in scene. In this image I only cloned out about four individuals.

The sky was quite dramatic on the day, but the SOOC image had a fairly washed out sky. This was restored using Photoshop and the Color Efex Pro 4 filter that is part of the Nik Collection by DxO package.

Stonehenge was a great location to shoot an iconic landmark and to enjoy the British countryside.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr


  1. Join the Navy see the world! 
The Good Church

The Good Church

There seem to be two things that attract photographers to Tekapo in New Zealand—the incredible dark sky and the Church of the Good Shepherd. These can of course be combined, with some very famous images of each.

The township and lake, and the church, are photogenic in themselves, and daytime images are worthwhile.

The biggest problem with this scene, in the daytime, is the people. I setup and waited for quite sometime with the composition I wanted. I shot whenever the crowds were few, and eventually got an image with only half a dozen people or so.

I will admit I then did something I rarely do—I Photoshopped the people out1.

Although I prefer not to remove elements from an image, in this case my photographic vision, and the story I wanted to tell, was of the stunning location, the peace and the isolation. These are all true things, so I happily removed the people from the image.

The composition is similar to one used in one of Elia Locardi’s Photographing the World tutorials, which I highly recommend. I liked Elia’s composition, and spent time to find a similar composition. It is a learning technique to try to get inside the head of other photographers.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr


  1. I occasionally remove elements from an image. I don’t add things that weren’t there. 
Aoraki Azure

Aoraki Azure

Driving from Wanaka to Tekapo in New Zealand we were quite suddenly greeted by an amazing view of Aoraki / Mt Cook across the stunning blue waters of Lake Pukaki.

As I worked on this image, a few months later, I was challenged to remind myself that the lake and the sky were incredibly blue. Editing any image requires the photographer to be honest about what it was about a scene that inspired them, and to produce a final image that is true to their photographic vision and the story they are telling.

This image was personally challenging in that regard, but I am happy with this result.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr.

Lookout

Lookout

This image was made in the same general area as my Wanaka Wandering image, and apart from demonstrating the value of getting to some unique, off-the-beaten-path locations, it also demonstrates another value of a photo tour.

In this case the tour guide not only volunteered to be a model, but new a great spot that could use a human element to bring perspective to the immense landscape. There’s a reason that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in NZ, including in this very area.

People don’t feature in many of my images, but I have to admit that in this instance the human element added to the image, significantly.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom CC Classic, Photoshop, Nik Collection
Wanaka Wandering & the value of photo tours

Wanaka Wandering & the value of photo tours

Wanaka Wandering

A photo tour in Wanaka, NZ, took us onto private property in the hills high above Lake Wanaka.

It was a magical location, off the beaten track, that provided for some unique images that showed the scale of the lake and surrounding mountains and valleys.

This image was made in the evening with beautiful blues, greens and golds in the countryside.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Value of Photo Tours

As an experienced scuba diver1 I am comfortable diving in most diving situations, yet when I go to new places I enjoy the opportunity to dive with a local guide. Even though I might have greater experience or qualifications in diving overall, local dive guides generally know a lot more about diving in the local environment that I do.

I’ve had the opportunity to take several dedicated photo tours, including one in Ubud, Bali and one in Wanaka, New Zealand. While I hear some experienced photographers question the value of such photo tours, sometimes of belittling the participants for ‘stamp collecting’ images, I think that such tours can have several advantages.

General Advantages

The right pace. Photographers often lament that when travelling in general tours the pace of the tour is too fast to allow them to stop and create great images. Other participants will complain that the photogs are slowing the group down. Specialised photo tours mean structure the pace for photographers, and everyone knows what they are getting themselves into.

Locations are picked for the conditions. The photo tours I’ve undertaken have had a general list of locations, but always advertise that conditions will be selected for the day. To suit photographic conditions.

Meet others with similar interests. On photo tours you might meet with other photographer who share similar interests. This might provide shooting partners for other days in the area.

The chance to talk photography with other enthusiasts. The travel to and from locations, the breaks and meals are times when participants and guides will strike up conversations. You can talk photography, knowing that everyone is a willing participant in the conversation ;-).

Advantages for the novice

Experiential instruction. While not courses, per se, photo tours offer guides who understand photography, and can offer tips and tricks.

Chance to try out equipment. Some photo tours will supply specialised equipment for the type of photography. This might include tripods, filters, etc.

Permission to play without being rushed. Not having non-photogs around means that the photogs can focus on the task at hand.

For the experienced photographer

Get you to the best photo spots. Many of my favourite photos have come from once in a lifetime destinations2. While I research my locations before travelling, it is nice to have someone who can take you to the best locations, at the best times.

Access to unique locations. The photo tour I took in Wanaka, NZ, went high into the hills above the Lake, overlooking the town in the distance. The location was on private property, and the operator, Ridgeline Tours had exclusive access to the site. It was a unique and magical site for late afternoon and sunset images.

Tips / tricks / critiques from another photographer. Regardless of how experienced we are, there is always someone better. The guides on photo tours generally really know the photographic techniques for the areas they are in. This critique can shorten the learning curve.

Opportunity to try out new forms of photography. You might be a great landscape photographer, but perhaps a photo tour will provide the opportunity to try out nightscapes.

Final Thoughts

I would not, nor would I recommend, making photo tours a daily activity on a holiday or adventure. But there are reasons to consider that they might be advantageous from time-to-time. If a photographer enjoys the occasional photo tour, all power to them.


  1. As a PADI Course Director I teach all levels of scuba diving from beginner to higher level instructor courses. 
  2. Or at least locations I will visit only rarely.