Dramatic clouds above an abandoned house in Pullman, Washington
The Palouse Region of Southeast Washington is best known for it’s vibrant colors and vivid landscapes, but some of my favorite images from my recent trip to Southeast Washington work better in black and white.
France photographing her favorite tree near Steptoe Butte
The rolling agricultural landscape of the area can be striking in black and white when it plays up the graphic lines, dramatic clouds, and light of the area.
Treads on a tractor and striped fields
I like how the treads on this tractor mimic the striped fields in the background.
Vintage Truck in Garfield, WA
Editing in black in white can also help when skies are a bit flat, like in the shot below of the crumbling grainery just off the Palouse Scenic Byway.
Crumbling grainery in Pullman
Photo above by France Freeman
My black and white edits were inspired by this shot my friend, photographer France Freeman, took of me in Pullman. Who knew Pullman had street art?
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in Finnish Lapland, as photographed on my Canon 5D MK III
One of the reasons I chose to go with Photo Enrichment Adventures to Lapland and Stockholm was for another chance to photograph the Aurora Borealis. After aurora hunting in Iceland in October, I got hooked on the phenomenon and know I’ll be seeking out more opportunities to see the Northern Lights.
Photo Enrichment specializes in small group cultural tours with an emphasis on photography. I enjoy night photography but it’s definitely not my forte, and welcomed the chance up up my night photography game. Shooting after dark involves long shutter speeds and that means a tripod is required.
I brought tripod set-ups for both my DSLR, a Canon 5D MK III as well as a far more compact version for my iPhone 6s.
Stockholm’s Parliament building illuminated at night
Situated between the head of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is hella windy at night and the night I spent shooting after dark in Stockholm was by far the coldest.
The most important gear in addition to a tripod is the right gloves. My hands tend to get extremely cold and I’ve been shooting with mittens over texting gloves, trying to find the correct pair or combo since I visited Iceland last fall.
iPhone 6s Slow Shutter Shot of Stockholm at night
Since I know I will be doing more night photography in cold conditions, I’ve now purchased a pair of heated gloves. After a lot of research I figured out that the gloves for hunters and snipers have the same features photographers need, including a free trigger finger. The Heat 3 Smart Gloves came highly rated but with a steep price tag, so I opted for the slightly less expensive Swany Arctic Toaster Mittens.
Stockholm at night, a Canon 5 D MK III shot
The Aurora Borealis only showed up one night during my stay in Finnish Lapland, and earlier than expected, so I only photographed them using my Canon DSLR setup.
The other nights I tried shooting with both my Canon and my iPhone 6s, using the Slow Shutter app, and overall I was impressed with the resulting images from my iPhone. The photos from Stockholm blew out some of the details in the highlights that my Canon was able to capture, but I am still happy with the images.
The Slow Shutter app also has an intervalometer feature built in so you can set exposure times and shutter speeds. Slow Shutter’s intervalometer was more intuitive than the stand alone remote timer I used from Canon.
Cabins in Kukkolankoski, Finland (iPhone image above)
Slow Shutter produced images that were a bit noisy, but editing them and blending together a few of my favorite edits using the Image Blender app makes the noise less noticeable. They don’t have the same sharpness as the shots from my Canon DSLR but they certainly captured the mood!
I plan on doing more night photography in the coming months so that my comfort level and skill improves.
Cabins in Kukkolankoski photographed with my Canon 5D MK III
The other piece of gear which is so essential for cold weather shooting is extremely low tech: large Ziploc storage bags. After shooting in extremely cold conditions, you take out your battery and SD and CF cards and place your DSLR and lenses in these to prevent condensation when they warm up to room temperature. Very useful!
If you’re looking for things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand and bungy jumping isn’t your style, I highly recommend taking a scenic helicopter flight to Milford Sound with Heli Glenorchy. This was the highlight of my recent trip to New Zeland’s South Island.
The Dart and Reese rivers meet Lake Wakatipu
The weather has to be on your side. Too much wind can make for a choppy and unpleasant flight. After two days of delays and time push backs, I was finally able to take the scenic flight to Milford Sound with pilot Mark Hollows.
Taking off from the Glenorchy helipad video
Despite his chill Kiwi attitude, Hollows is a seasoned pilot who knows Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park like the back of his hand. With decades of also piloting experience, Hollows also sometimes flies helicopters from the Seattle area into Alaska. He provided a smooth and safe journey and convinced me I want to be a helicopter pilot in my next life.
The Real Middle Earth, as seen from a helicopter
I’m a bit of an aviation geek and now helicopters are my new favorite form of transportation. Why? Check out these stunning views!
A lake in the Fiordland with the Rees River in the background
If you are planning a trip to Queenstown and looking for a luxury tour, I cannot recommend a scenic helicopter tour highly enough. It’s an adrenaline rush without bungee cords. If you are photographer, the aerial views are incredible.
Here I am exiting the helicopter to explore the Fiordland
Weather permitting, you can add on things like a glacier and snow landing to your scenic tour. These extras are all weather dependent– much of the snow had melted so our snow landing was a bit rockier than it would have been during cooler weather. I’m not complaining!
Exploring the Fiordland
It’s incredible to have such an intimate experience among the clouds in such a dramatic and gorgeous setting.
Helicopters can land just about anywhere
The blue skies, the glaciers, the lakes… it’s nature at it’s most pristine. I can’t think of anything else more deserving of the tourism board’s “Pure New Zealand” description and #purenewzealand hashtag.
Whirlybird goodness GIF
I was blown away by the landscape. Glaciers melting into small pools, clouds and bright blue skies were everywhere.
Where a glacier becomes a lake near Milford Sound
The rocks were covered with patches of moss when they weren’t capped with snow.
Moss, rocks, and glacier
This is part of the planet you can’t easily reach by hiking.
I love the graphic nature of the landscape
While I had some photographic issues with reflections in the windows, I have since learned from fellow photographers you ideally want a “doors off” flight for the best images.
Glacier melt turns into rapids near Milford Sound
I’m not sure if Heli Glenorchy offers a doors off option, but I’m still thrilled with the photos I got during this flight.
Another amazing aerial view with Lake Wakatipu in the distance
The scenery can truly be described using every cliche. Epic? For sure. Breathtaking? Yep.
It’s amazing to be able to fly into the clouds… and then just land
Glaciers peaking above the clouds
The view from my window seat looking down at Fiordland National Park
A portrait of helicopter pilot Mark Hollows
As if you need any more scenery, the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is also quite beautiful.
Glaciers winding through craggy rocks
Looking down at a glacier
Just below the clouds
Glaciers create some of the world’s most glorious scenery
It’s kind of mind blowing being able to look down at a glacier from a helicopter. You really get a sense of their movement and flow.
A stunning aerial view of lake in Fiordland National Park
Helicopter tours do not come cheap. Scenic flights to Milford Sound start at NZ$245 (US$165) per person. But the Heli Glenorchy experience is worth every penny.
Address: Mull St, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand
Phone:+64 800 435 449
If you are planning a gorilla trekking safari to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, you are going to want to document your experience with a camera or three.
There are less than 1,000 mountain gorillas in the world today
Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your gorilla trekking safari photography.
I took some of my favorite images on my iPhone 6s plus
Weather conditions for my treks ranged from rainy (think Gorillas in the Mist) to very contrasty when it was sunny. The contrasty day was the most difficult to photograph.
This mountain gorilla walked right by me
Tip #1 Hire a Porter
Porters are available (tip them US $10 per day) to help carry your gear/backpack and help you through steep and difficult parts of your trek. I would highly recommend using one. Not only are you supporting the local community, but there are a few times when it’s helpful to have someone spot you when you are climbing on a step rocks.
A juvenile gorilla swinging in the bamboo
Tip #2 Make Sure You have Pockets
The protocol for gorilla trekking safaris requires you to leave your daypack, backpack or camera bag about 100 meters from the group of gorillas you will be interacting with that day. This means that any gear you intend on using during the one hour you get to spend with the gorillas needs to be on you. Make sure your pants (most likely rain pants) have pockets for any accessories or spare batteries you might need.
Mother gorilla and baby (image shot and edited on my iPhone 6s plus)
Tip #3- Bring Your iPhone or Mobile Phone
Some of the best photos I shot during my gorilla treks were taken using my iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s plus. Mobile phones are great for wide angle photography, and you will be getting up close with the mountain gorillas. iPhones (and most mobile phones) are best at shooting wide angle images and are easy to carry. This makes them an an excellent choice for photographing your gorillas trekking experience.
Portrait of a mountain gorilla (taken on my iPhone 6s)
Trekkers in Volcanoes National Park are supposed to stay 7 meters away (approximately 23 feet) from the gorillas. The gorillas, however, do not follow this rule. Some will walk ride by you or even touch you. You can only photograph these sorts of interactions if you camera can focus when it’s close to the subject. My iPhone 6s was great at photographing at these short distances, where the lens I had on my Canon required more distance.
Gorilla laying on it’s back
Tip #4- Pack a few lens wipes
You’ll visit the gorillas on their turf, which is not a clear hiking path. The ground will be covered with vines and leaves and possibly mud. I tripped once each of the three days I was with gorilla trekking. While my falls weren’t painful, a few of them did leave my lens or cameras a bit dirty. Fortunately I brought a lint free lens wipe with me each day so I was able to wipe down my cameras and return to shooting promptly.
I shot this video of a mountain gorilla munching on bamboo on my iPhone 6s
Tip #5- Shoot Some Video
Your mobile phone is a great option for this. Even if you are not an experienced video shooter, this is the time to give it a try. Make sure your microphone is on so you have some of the sounds of nature. If you don’t like the sounds when you review your video later, you can always add music later.
Tip #6- Bring a wide angle zoom lens
If you are bringing a DSLR camera, you’ll want to have a wide angle zoom lens that can focus quickly with you. I got good results with my Canon 24-70 mm lens.
I photographed the young mountain gorillas above using my Canon 24-70 wide angle zoom
Tip #7- Bring a Shower Cap
A humble shower cap is one hotel room amenity I always take and stuff into my camera bag. Shower caps can be used to protect your camera body in rainy or damp conditions, which are very possible if Rwanda. Rwanda’s rainy season is from March- May, but I had a light rain in early December. A plastic bag can also do the trick but in Rwanda has a ban on plastic bags. So if you don’t have a clean plastic bag available, grab a shower cap from your hotel’s bathroom instead.
Gorilla chilling out in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Tip #7- Disable Your Flash
Flash photography is not allowed around the gorillas. Be sure you know how to disable the flash on your camera or mobile phone and do so before you get to your group of gorillas.
Baby gorilla from the Hirwa group framed in vines
Tip #8- Look for Creative Ways to Frame Your Shot
The mountain gorillas in Rwanda have some very human behaviors, but they won’t pose for you. Look for angles that will allow you to frame the animals creatively. I found the vines and bamboo helped create interesting ways to frame the animals.
Ideally you want to be able to focus on the gorilla’s eyes. It is unlikely that the lighting will always be ideal for this. Apps like Afterlight and VSCO‘s clarity and shadow save adjustment features can help enhance your gorilla photos during your editing process. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, this can also be done in the editing process if you use Lightroom or Photoshop.
Tip #9- Shoot a Variety of Shots (including group shots)
Much of the time you’ll be in front of one or two gorillas. Try and look for a variety of images, including group shots. These might be harder to compose due to other trekkers in your group, or lighting conditions might not be ideal. Group shots help round out your coverage and give a sense of how the gorilla family interacts. If you have a clear shot of a group of gorillas moving, try capturing it on video as well as in stills. It helps give a sense of place.
I shot the video above of the Hirwa group of gorillas on my iPhone 6s
Tip #10- Don’t Forget to Shoot Landscapes and Details
In order to best cover your gorilla trekking experience, you’ll want to include a few landscape shots which show the area. If you have any sort of zoom capability, you’ll also want to get a few shots of details. When the largest silverback gorilla in the world did not want to show me his face, I took a photo of his vast back. If I could not see an animal’s eyes, I tried to zoom in on a detail like feet, hands, or toes.
A landscape of the some of rural countryside in Rwanda
This gorilla didn’t wouldn’t show me his face, so I photographed his feet
My gorilla trekking guides offered to take pictures of me each day. This is a better and safer option than taking a gorilla selfie.
Here I am photographing the mountain gorillas in Rwanda