Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Exploring Norway’s Lofoten Islands: a Photo Essay


Ana walking around the Bend in Fredvang

When I was planning my trip to the Lofoten Islands of  Norway, I wanted to see (and photograph) the Northern Lights. But like much of life, it’s not the big highlights that make up all of my memories of the trip. Part of the charm of the Lofoten Islands is that they are small, scenic and sparsely populated. This combo can make them a dream for photographers.


Sheep in the Lofoten Islands

The pastoral scenery of Northern Norway is lovely. Fjords with small clusters of fishing cottages and small farms filled with sheep. There were several places worth pulling over to the side of the road to take a photograph or wander a bit.


Fall frost in the Lofoten Islands


Portrait of Ana near the Fjords in Northern Norway

Renting a car (or having access to one) is essential in this part of Norway. As the days grow shorter, many businesses tend to close for the season so you’ll need a vehicle to get from place to place. Norwegians do the sunbird thing and flock to the Canary islands for sunshine and a lower cost of living.


Ana on sandy Ramberg Beach

I was most surprised by the white sandy beaches in the Lofoten Islands. They add some unexpected atmosphere and charm to the dramatic landscapes and were delightful places to walk even on a windy autumn afternoon.

Ana stopping traffic in the Lofoten Islands

Businesses in Svolvær are more likely to be open year round, and it makes sense to stay here off seasons. Many of the smaller restaurants and rorbu (fishing cottages) in smaller towns like Reine and Hamnoy close seasonally for some or all of the winter. If you are visiting during the off-season, be sure to take some snacks with you. Ana and I found our hunger kicked in during off hours and the nearest open grocery store was some distance away.






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Scenes from a Day Trip to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania


An elephant in the Ngorogoro Conservation area

During my stay at the Four Seasons Safari Lodge in the Serengeti, the staff arranged for me to take a full day trip to the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation area. The Ngorogoro is one of Tanzania’s great treasures, and a stunning place to see unique landscape and wildlife.


Red earth, white clouds, and saline lakes in the Ngorogoro Crater

The Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The crater is the centerpiece for the area. It’s the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera. So the landscape is rather unique.


Grey Crowned Crane

The Ngorogoro Crater is stark and beautiful, with the vast landscape dotted with wildlife. While I do not consider myself much of a birdwatcher, the birds in the area are stunning. During certain times of the year, flocks of flamingos are present in the saline lakes.


Rocky roads leading into salt flats and canyons of the Ngorogoro

The Ngorogoro Crater Conservation area is large, and it was a long (and bumpy) three hour drive from the Serengeti Lodge. I found the area interesting enough that I wish I had more time there. On my next trip to Tanzania I hope to stay in the area longer to learn more about it and see more of the interesting and unique ecosystem.


Zebra were plentiful on the grasslands of the Ngorogoro Crater


Zebra feeding on the grasslands


Hippos in a lake in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area


Much cleaner Hippos than in the muddy hippo pools of the Serengeti


Kori Bustard, the largest flying bird native to Africa


Ostrich in the Ngorogoro grasslands




Wildebeest in the Ngorogoro Crater


Ponds and trees in the Ngorgorgo Crater


Superb starling


Hyena walking 


Giraffe in the Ngorgoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania


Masked Weaver


The Ngorogoro’s oddly beautiful landscape


Giraffe in the bushes


Obligatory “tourists taking a selfie” pic in the Ngorogoro Conservation area


Stark landscape + Giraffes in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area

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Exploring Stockholm, Sweden: a Photo Essay

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The view from Södermalm

I recently returned from an Arctic Adventure to Swedish and Finnish Lapland with Photo Enrichment Adventures. My first stop was Stockholm, Sweden, where I spent a few days getting over jet lag and exploring the “Capital of Scandinavia.”

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Love locks- they’re not just for Paris

Some of my favorite things about Stockholm were exploring the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. I enjoyed the charming cafes and interesting old streets in the area.
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Swedish still life in Södermalm

Södermalm was my favorite area of Stockholm, with it’s trendy restaurants, cafes and creative vibe.

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Taking a boat tour is a classic way to see Stockholm

If you’re into boats, don’t miss the Vasa Museum, one of the best experiences you’ll ever have with a sunken ship. I did not get to visit the Abba Museum, but I’m big on saving something for the next trip.

Swedish Zen at the Miss Clara Hotel

I stayed at the Miss Clara Hotel the first few nights. Located in a gorgeous 1910 Art Nouveau building that used to house a girls school, the vibe was modern and quiet, and had a lovely sauna in the basement.

Window shopping in Gamla Stan (old town)

Stockholm is chilly in the spring, with it’s waterfront location bringing winds off the Baltic sea.

A cute Stockholm native

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a Swedish Frenchie in old town

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Salmon, salmon and more salmon

I got to try a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord with all the trimmings at the Grand Hotel. Lingonberry jam, smoked fish, and the house 1874 Grand Aquavit to wash it down.

Skål! I’m a fan of the Aquavit

Flavored with caraway, anise and fennel, the aquavit reminded me of the Brennivín I tasted in Iceland.


Stockholm at night

I did some night shooting in Stockholm in preparation for heading to Lapland and chasing the Aurora Borealis. I was colder during the night shoot in Stockholm than anytime during the lapland part of my trip, due to winds. But I do like I the images I got of the city at night.

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie in gorgeous Stockholm window light

The light in Stockholm was beautiful at times and flat at others. But the window light was so delicious I couldn’t resist taking a selfie on my iPhone 6s.

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Exploring New Zealand: Queenstown Photo Tour with Paradise Pictures


Trees in Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy New Zealand

If one of your travel goals it to take better pictures, I highly recommend taking a photo tour with a local photographer whatever your destination. I booked a photo tour of Queenstown on my recent trip to New Zealand’s South Island with local photographer, Laurence Belcher, of Paradise Pictures.


Sculpture by a local artist in Glenorcy, New Zealand

Laurence lives in Glenorchy and is a really cool Kiwi who knows New Zealand’s South Island exceptionally well. He enjoys showing visitors the local area and the people. Laurence has even published a gorgeous photo book of the area called Views From the Head of the Lake.


A moss covered fence post in Glenorchy

Laurence worked for years in the hospitality business and is a great local source for wisdom and insight. He’s also got a traveler’s wanderlust and spirit– he often explores the country in a camper van with his wife. Travelers always make the best tour guides. They aren’t as focused on landmarks as they are on sharing the spirit of a place.

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A view of the Dart river in Glenorchy

Photographers are generally a cool lot, and Laurence is happy to give you as much or as little help as you need with your camera. Shooting with other photographers, especially those who are really strong in an area where you could use some help, is a really good way to up your photo game. I have been trying to up my landscape game and Laurence is a master of landscapes.


Clouds and the Dart river

Laurence gave me some great tips for composing better landscapes. He also pushed me to try new things, like balancing my DSLR on my hand a low angles for more dynamic shots. It’s a technique I have not yet perfected but have continued to experiment with since my photo tour was over.

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Lake Wakatipu does not have a bad angle

My Canon DSLR got damaged during my trip and Laurence went out of his way to try and help me fix the issue. That was beyond the call of duty of a guide and very much appreciated. It was a good reminder to always have a backup camera (I had a Fuji and my iPhone 6s).

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Colors and clouds on Lake Wakatipu

Local photographers know the best spots for pictures and also can give you wisdom and insight you might not get from a historical or more traditional travel guide. Laurence showed me Mrs. Woolly’s General Store, which was a gem of a find. Mrs. Woolly’s has interesting local products as well as delicious coffee. Laurence is a foodie and also had great restaurant tips. He was the one that suggested we take a scenic flight to Milford Sound with Heli Glenorchy.


I photographed this smoked garlic using the Foodie app

If you’re headed to New Zealand’s South Island and want to up your photography game, I highly recommend giving Laurence a call and arranging a photo tour. My husband, who has never taken a photography class, enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Laurence Belcher

Paradise Pictures

Phone: +64 3 409 0998 Mobile: +64 21 685 552
Freephone: 0800 2 FOCUS

Address: PO BOX 1980, Queenstown, NZ

Paradise Pictures Instagram

Paradise Pictures Facebook


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Exploring New Zealand: Scenic Helicopter Tour of Milford Sound

The view of Glenorchy from lift off

The view of Glenorchy from lift off  

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 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

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

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

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!

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Exploring the Fiordland

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

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

 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

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

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

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

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  in the distance

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

 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

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

Glaciers winding through craggy rocks

Looking down at a glacier

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

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.

Heli Glenorchy
Address: Mull St, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand
Phone:+64 800 435 449

Heli Glenorchy Facebook Page 

Follow Heli Glenorchy on Instagram

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