Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Exploring Maui, Hawaii: Road to Hana Highlights– the Venus Pool

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Jumping for Joy at the Venus Pools

Some the best highlights on Maui’s famed Road to Hana are beyond the town of Hana. While most guide books will claim you can do this scenic Hawaiian road trip in 3 hours, I’d suggest taking at least two days. Spend a night (or three) in the Hana area so you can explore the area at your own pace and linger at the places you like.

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Hiking through sugar cane to the Venus Pool

One of the definite highlights of the area is Waioka pond, better known as the Venus Pool. The trail to this beautiful spot can be found on the ocean side of the Hana Highway, just past Mile Marker 48 and before the bridge. The hike is easy and interesting and it takes about 10-15 minutes of walking through sugar cane and lush greenery and past a weird looking shelter (that is an old bread oven) before you see the stunning blue pool fringed by rock.

Slo motion Venus pool goodness

If you plan on visiting the Venus Pool, be sure you bring shoes that can handle water and have traction. Some of the rocks can get slippery. Sunscreen and a towel are also useful.

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Splash at the Venus Pool (waioka)

We visited in late morning it was glorious. Based on the number of locals who showing off their cliff diving prowess, it is a gem appreciated by locals and visitors alike.

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rock climb, dive, repeat

The Venus Pool is a stunning shade of blue in the late morning light. The water here is slightly brackish since it partially filled by a spring and not just the ocean.

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It’s one of the most magical swimming holes I’ve ever seen. The Venus pond is deep enough that visitors jump and dive from various rock outcroppings

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Into the blue of Waioka (aka the Venus Pool)

I loved the Venus Pool so much I wanted to come back again. It’s a great spot for swimming, hanging out, or having a picnic. If you didn’t bring lunch, head back towards Hana and grab a bite at Bruddah Hutts BBQ, one of the best food trucks in the area.

Waioka (the Venus Pool)

Trail head located just past Mile Marker 48 on the Hana Highway.

Hana, Hawaii 96713

 

 

 

 

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Exploring Norway’s Lofoten Islands: a Photo Essay

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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.

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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.

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Fall frost in the Lofoten Islands

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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.

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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.
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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Zebra were plentiful on the grasslands of the Ngorogoro Crater

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Zebra feeding on the grasslands

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Hippos in a lake in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area

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

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Kori Bustard, the largest flying bird native to Africa

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Ostrich in the Ngorogoro grasslands

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Wildebeest

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Wildebeest in the Ngorogoro Crater

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Ponds and trees in the Ngorgorgo Crater

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Superb starling

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Hyena walking 

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Giraffe in the Ngorgoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania

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Masked Weaver

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The Ngorogoro’s oddly beautiful landscape

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Giraffe in the bushes

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
Email: hello@paradisepictures.co.nz

Address: PO BOX 1980, Queenstown, NZ

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