Photographing Horseshoe Bend

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One of the most “Instagrammed” places of recent times; and I have got that bucketlist item ticked off the list as well!

Ever since having seen photos of the Horseshoe Bend for the first time I wanted to experience this unique landscape with my own eyes – and get one of those “unique” panoramic shots.

Interestingly, it’s only a relatively new phenomenon that the Horseshoe Bend is so popular, which has seen annual visitor numbers rising up to 1.3 million!  Hordes of people armed with selfie stick and mobile phone is a common sight these days; locals tell the story of a a place kept a hidden treasure for most of its existence.

Just a few miles outside of Page, Arizona, a short trail winds its way up to the spectacular edges of the Canyon walls – it’s easy to see why this has become such a popular attraction. Ultimately, this is the reason why I found my way there too!

Thankfully it’s off-season. Yes, this was certainly the most crowded place I’ve been to during my trip through Arizona. But I expected worse. And experienced much, much worse in other parts of the world.

Despite sunset time, the most popular time of the day for the Horseshoe Bend, there was ample opportunity to wander left or right and leave the crowds behind to find a place for oneself, to take in the breathtaking scenery and enjoy the sun slowly fading away.

Nonetheless, the crowds become an issue. At other times, there’s no serenity here, and in order to accommodate the masses changes are coming to the Horseshoe bend: “proper infrastructure” is currently under construction: meaning a new trail, railings  as well as the rumours have it, a $25 entrance fee.

That’ll alter the uniqueness of the experience dramatically, of course. What choice have authorities, though? They’ve got to ensure safety and currently, that has to be said, it’s rather dangerous, given there are no barriers, and beyond the edges it goes 300 metres straight down!

For the photo I had in mind, a straightforward panorama, I brought the Sigma 8-16mm. Finding a place for myself wasn’t an issue…. but one that provided the perspective I had in mind, while having a panoramic images with no people tangling their legs over the edges was the difficulty.

I decided to wander to the left and “hid” behind a tall stone wall, that helped to frame the picture but also hid the people I didn’t want to have in the shot. Eight vertical frames were stitched together in post in Lightroom eventually.

The Mittens of Monument Valley

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Unsure what to expect, I planned only one full day in Monument Valley. Little did I know, indeed!

The overwhelming beauty, grace and magic of this landscape blew my mind – this stretch of planet Earth is something hard to describe in words, and certainly no photograph will ever do it justice. It’s got to be experienced by oneself!

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Snow fell in the Valley the days before I arrived; covering parts of the red desert ground and the Mitten Buttes in deliciously fine white powder. Arctic temperatures… a result of the winter not making an exception for an area that only a few weeks ago was still piping hot as warning signs reminding hikers to take plenty of water on board during their travels.

Depending on what directions one looks, rock formations, size but also light and atmosphere changing dramatically. Snow covered peaks to one side; planet Mars-like landscapes the other way.

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Photography-wise Monument Valley, but particularly The Mittens, present a riches of subjects to explore; so many different scenes want be captured – but nothing compares to the sunrise, when those first precious rays find their way over the massive stone walls, illuminating the valley in warm, golden light.

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There’s this one world famous view everyone will have in some form or another; and if only in a Hollywood movie that gives the place its name: Forrest Gump Point. A particular delicious panoramic view with Route-63 leading right into it…. a place synonymous with selfie sticks these days.

I don’t own a selfie stick and wasn’t after the “money shot”. Rather, the setting sun, provided the perfect backdrop to create a powerful silhouette of the Mittens – the imagine I probably most love of all the ones I got during my time in Monument Valley.

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Equipment:
Nikon D7100
Sigma 8-16mm
Tamron 70-200mm G2

A Turf Paradise in Arizona

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As I am over in Phoenix, Arizona right now, I took the chance to pay the local horse race track – Turf Paradise – a visit.

A compact race track, on the outskirts of Phoenix, I was greeted by a super relaxed, serene and friendly atmosphere. Sure, splendid sunshine always helps; nonetheless, this place has loads of charme: you’re close to the action, entry is free and fair food & drink prices make it wonderful day out.

There were only a few hundred or so people attending this mid-week race day. But as this is such a compact place, it didn’t feel lonely as it can be at bigger tracks on these type of days.

Having the big lens with me on the day, briefly some security guy came up and ask “are you with the media?” – otherwise no bother, and I could take some great images.

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Equipment:

Nikon D7100
Tamron 70-200mm G2
Sigma 8-16mm

Devils Glen Waterfall

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The Devils Glen waterfall this afternoon – a truly breathtaking place in the Wicklow Mountains I didn’t know about until discovering it on Saturday in a magazine pullout of the Irish Times weekend edition.

So off I went today right away. An hours drive from Naas, Devils Glen is easily to reach, parking onsite and two excellent looped walks waiting to be explored. Easy enough terrain, nothing extreme.

Unfortunately it was an overcast day which means the light wasn’t quite as I would have liked it. Surely I’ll be back in autumn when it must be such a colourful place.

I got a 25 second long-exposure at the foot of the waterfall – a beautiful scene that may have been enhanced by some sun rays shining through the trees. It’s an image I quite like nonetheless.

Lisbon at Night

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Does this bridge look familiar? It certainly did to me the first time I saw the Ponte 25 de Abril… it appears to be strikingly similar to the world famous Golden Gate Bridge!

Well, as it turns out these two bridges have things in common: they are red in colour and belong to the category of the suspension bridges.

However, even though a taxi driver told me a tale of the same architect who constructed both bridges, the truth is Lisbon’s Ponte 25 de Abril has been built by the American Bridge Company – the same company that built the other massive bridge connecting the Bay Area: the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.

That doesn’t make the Ponte 25 de Abril less imposing. As  the longest suspension bridge in Europe this is quite an enormous construction, connecting Lisbon with Almada on the other side of the Tagus River.

Lisbon Sunset Fantástico!

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Balmy temperatures, stunning architecture and grand views – that all is Lisbon. What Lisbon is also: sore calf muscles!

The one who wants to enjoy the rich beauty of Portugal’s capital has to be prepared to go the extra mile… or two for that matter…. up some brutally steep hills. The reward is even greater, though, for those who make the effort.

My legs were hurting, that’s for sure. Yet, while not inspired photography wise during my few days, (Lisbon offers enough subjects to photograph – I was simply not in “the zone” and had other things on my mind) it still felt great to climb around the city and get surprised about what’s next to be explored beyond the next wall of steep stairs.

The richest of rewards to reap is – of course – a delightful sunset; the golden sunlight glowing above the rooftops of Lisbon’s historical city, illuminating the monumental Lisbon castle

This photo – one of the few I took during the week – was taken atop of the Miradouro da Graça – quite clearly the prime viewpoint of Lisbon. A grand view offering the full scale of the hilly Portuguese capital.

Using the Telezoom Tamron 70-200mm turned out a perfect option opposed to a wide angle. A handful of vertical frames shot at 70mm stitched together in post worked best for me.

Panoramic Fuerteventura

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The stunning panorama of Fuerteventura as seen from the Mirador Morro Velosa – six vertical frames each at 70mm taken and stitched together in post to create this kilometer long view across several barranco’s.

It’s actually not that long ago, that I owned a computer with a hard drive of the size of the original file of this image. It brought the old laptop I had with me on the trip to Fuerteventura down to its knees processing it.

Sydney Rainbow

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Battered by storm and rain for days, Sydney still manages to produce breathtaking beauty: a massive double rainbow stretches all the way from Harbour Bridge across the entire city centre.

Photographs like this, but even more so these moments witnessing it in flesh are the reward for being out there regardless of the weather. If you wanna see it you got to make the effort. You won’t get this on your couch in front of the TV.

In these days here in Sydney, where it has rarely stopped to rain and I got soaked multiple times since I arrived, it would have been easy to kick back, relax and enjoy coffee and cake in the one of the really nice coffee shops the city has to offer aplenty.

But there is more to life, isn’t it? So I get out there and soak up the beauty of this place, the visual riches that keep giving and giving particular for photography.

Though, I have to admit, that particular day when this shot was taken – Thursday – a couple of hours before I was slightly depleted. I sat in the train on the way to the city, and the rain was hammering against the windows again… or still? You know, when this is all you see and hear for days it can be a bit depressing. Particularly if you fly around the globe to see this particular city!

But you know what? The easy option would have been not to get out. To stay snuggled up home, and let the rain pass. The easy option would have not rewarded me with the breathtaking view of a double rainbow over the Harbour Bridge.

Lesson of the story? Get out shoot enjoy life and keeping shooting!

Hiking in the Adelaide Hills

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Day 3 in “Down Under” – still Adelaide, though slowly but steadily my time here draws to a close. It was an early start, the sun stood sky high, you got to make the most of that. The plan was to hike in the Adelaide Hills.

Eventually I ended up in the Cleland Conservation Park, roughly 20km outside of the city – a IUCN protected area – so quite an important piece of nature. Several excellently marked trails lead through the 11.25 square kilometre big park.

While I have seen more spectacular mountains (though these are called ‘hills’ anyway) it was nonetheless a great day out in the nature the whole day and well worth a long hike to be eventually rewarded with a stunning view of the city itself – as the image above shows.

Conditions were not ideal to shoot I have to admit. I didn’t have time to wait for the sunset so the sun was still quite high shining harshly into the valley where the city lies. The view was not totally clear and my Nikon D7100 had clearly issues to capture a balanced scene.

So I tried to bracket my shots and see what could be done in post combining the files. I’m happy enough with the output. The image was taken with the new Tamron 70-200mm G2 lens.

On my way back, already near the end of my trail, I suddenly heard some strange noises coming from the bushes near me…. and there they were, two kangaroos! Just finding themselves a spot to rest.

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Adelaide Oval Panorama

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Got to be open for surprises. This was not on the agenda for today – day two in Adelaide – but if you get the chance… the gates were open so I walked through right into the magnificent Adelaide Oval this afternoon.

Why? I don’t know. I only walked past the Oval because it was on the way to the St. Peter’s Cathedral and I thought maybe I get a nice shot from the outside from across the bridge.

Turned out some company was holding a conference inside the ground on the second level hence nobody cared for the little fella that I was strolling around like a kid in a candy shop.

I took the full advantage, the complete tour all the way round and got a lovely panorama I would have not dared to dream to ever get a couple of days ago.

This stadium is a thing of a beauty. Breathtaking architecture – let’s hope atmosphere holds up…. gonna find out on Thursday when Port Adelaide Football Club plays in front of a 53.500 capacity crowd!

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Shot taken: ISO 100, f/11, five horizontal frames, bracketed exposure – Nikon D7100, Simga 17-50mm