Monday, November 30, 2009

Kirkenes


Today was a fairly "flat" day. Short light hours, dark and gloomy weather, less than 90 photos, and I ended up feeling a little "flat and unproductive".
But the day started well, with stunning scenery in front of the ship as we headed south into Kirkenes:

Morning glow
EOS 7D, ISO 800, 24-105mm @ 24mm (A2_023587)
When photographing this I was well rugged-up against the cold, complete with windstopper balaclava. When I eventually went back inside the ship, the skin around my eyes was stinging from the cold. The day went on well, including an interesting visit to the Norwegian-Russian border. After leaving Kirkenes to head south again, we stopped at Vardø at around 4pm:

Moon over church, Vardø
EOS 5DmkII, ISO 200, 17-40mm @ 40mm (A2_023674)
This afternoon while walking along an ice-covered sidewalk in Vardø and chatting to a friend, I realised I wasn't paying quite enough attention to the ice when the surface under my feet changed. Instead of ice over concrete it was suddenly ice over steel (a trapdoor next to a building). I think my feet went sideways, and the rest of me went straight down. Hard.

I had two cameras on straps around my neck, and my Gitzo GT3541XLS tripod slung over my shoulder on an Optech tripod strap. Amazingly I didn't break anything: myself or the camera gear!
Continue reading "Kirkenes"...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

North Cape


Nordkapp monument
EOS 5DmkII, ISO 3200, 17-40mm @ 17mm (A2_023507)
Today we reached the furthest north we get on these trips: around 71 degrees. We visited North Cape, traditionally regarded as the most northerly point of Europe (well, there's a more-northerly point a few kms to the west, and they're both on an island anyway, but close enough). It's a bus-ride from Honningsvåg.

Havøysund harbour
EOS 5DmkII, ISO 1600, 17-40mm @ 17mm (A2_023466)
We also visited a few other ports, and had an encounter with some Kamchatka King Crabs (brought onboard by a local fisherman). The weather's still quite overcast and dull, but at least there's more snow cover than we saw further south (which helps with the light levels).

Still no aurora!

Random thought of the day: high ISOs rule! When I get a chance to get the cameras on a tripod on solid ground I tend to use ISO 100 or 200, but otherwise I'm usually working at ISOs between 1600 and 6400. I start to think I'm in bright conditions when I go down to 800!
This is with the EOS 5DmkII and 7D bodies, and while there's grain in many of my images I'm happier with that than having blur. Every now and then the grain becomes a problem, but it's a trade-off I'm happy to make. I'm glad I upgraded my second body to the 7D this year: on the whole it's taking more frames than the 5DmkII!
Continue reading "North Cape"...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bearded Seals


Just one photo for you today: a Bearded Seal showing off its whiskers in the aquarium at Polaria in Tromsø:

Bearded Seal, Tromsø
EOS 7D, ISO 3200, 24-105mm @ 105mm (A2_023354)
Lots more to see and do than just watch seals, but that'll do for tonight's post. No sign of the Northern Lights yet though: too much cloud.

Of course that's "Trumsa", not "Tromso"...
Continue reading "Bearded Seals"...

Friday, November 27, 2009

North of The Circle


This morning we crossed the Arctic Circle! So now having travelled south of the Antarctic Circle in January I'm north of the Arctic Circle in the same calendar year. Summer for one and winter for the other, but never mind...

Leaving Ørnes
EOS 5DmkII, ISO 1600, 17-40mm @ 40mm (A2_022965)
The town of Ørnes very pretty, complete with sleeping giant in the mountain behind the town.

Bodø is another interesting town. Most English-speakers try pronouncing Bodø as though it was spelt Bodo. But I now know that the pronunciation is closer to "Buddha"!

Beside the Saltstraumen, near Bodø
EOS 5DmkII, ISO 100, 17-40mm @ 17mm (A2_022981)
I made it out to the Saltstraumen (extreme whirlpools in the tidal rip between some nearby fjords) but only as the twilight was fading. Also it wasn't at the peak of tidal flow so while I did make some interesting images of the area, they didn't feature severe whirlpools.

Snow-dusted mountain
EOS 7D, ISO 1600, 24-105mm @ 50mm (A2_023028)
Earlier today we had more of the "usual" stunning scenery, with enormous mountains and "tiny" ships.

Combat Boat 90 (?)
EOS 7D, ISO 3200, 24-105mm @ 105mm (plus crop) (A2_023008)
Actually some of the ships were really tiny. These naval patrol boats looked like toys, but they're real enough.


This evening I went with some passengers to a recreated Viking longhouse for dinner and a historical re-enactment. Lots of fun! Extremely dark inside though.
Continue reading "North of The Circle"...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trondheim


River view, Trondheim
EOS 5DmkII, 17-40mm @ 20mm (A2_022821)
Trondheim's another interesting city. It's quite beautiful (once you make it past the construction wasteland near the port).

Panoramic courtyard
EOS 5DmkII, 17-40mm @ 20mm (A2_022811)
I'm doing a lot of composite panorama photos on this trip. This one was a 360-degree view in the courtyard near the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. With a shot like this with near and far subjects I was very careful to avoid parallax distortions, and thus used an RRS MPR plate combined with the camera's L-plate, and then panned using the ballhead's panning base. The stitching was easily achieved using Photoshop's Photomerge. The result is an 85 Mp image. It takes the computer a while to process the files, but it manages. I do sometimes wish the machine had more than 4GB of RAM though!
Continue reading "Trondheim"...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ålesund

This is the first re-post of my delayed blog posts from Norway. Rather than dumping them on the system all at once I'm scheduling them to be posted over a couple of weeks.

Descending the steps
EOS 5DmkII, 17-40mm @ 17mm (A2_022653)
Ålesund is a beautiful town, and today I got to spend a few hours exploring it. After climbing hundreds of steps to the lookout to take the same photo from the lookout above the town that everybody else takes (you'll see it in every tourism publication) I made this photo on my way back down the stairs. You can make out the red and white of the MS Trollfjord through the tree on the right.

In these posts I won't be showing all of my images, and sometimes not even my best images from each day. Hopefully they'll still be interesting images! :)

My days on the ship are quite long even though the sun sets quite early (and won't appear at all later in the voyage) and I won't be giving a run-down of the entire day's happenings. But I will try to post at least one thing per day!
Continue reading "Ålesund"...

On the ship for day 1

Just a brief note to say we're departing Bergen this evening. Am still settling into ship-board life, and will have some photos for you tomorrow. The internet connection works (although it's slow). We've got about 90 passengers on this voyage, although I've been noted already as the only Australian!

Now I've got to head outside and take some last photos of the city lights!
Continue reading "On the ship for day 1"...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Polar Summer Photography Workshops

In January we plan to announce the schedule for my 2010 photography workshop program (once the Portland wildlife photography workshops are over). Most of these will be local workshops in Victoria (and possibly some in other Australian states also) but I've been given the opportunity to conduct at least two workshops overseas: one in the Arctic summer (June), and then one in the Antarctic summer (November)!

Right now I'm trying to gauge interest levels, so if you might be interested in either of these trips please register your name on our waiting list as early as possible(see below). For now here are outline descriptions of the trips.

Norwegian fjords and Spitzbergen
14 days in June 2010, starting in Bergen (southern Norway) and finishing in Longyearbyen
We would start off photographing the stunning scenery of the Norwegian fjords in summer, including visiting many seabird rookeries. Travelling north, once we're north of the Arctic Circle and past the Lofoten Islands we head north away from the protected coastal waters to visit the seabird colonies at Bear Island, and onwards to Spitzbergen where we will see icebergs, glaciers, more birds, and hopefully many polar bears.
Cost: approximately AU$7700..AU$13000

Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Antarctic Peninsula
20 days in November 2010, ex Ushuaia (Argentina)
Late austral spring (which is when we'd be visiting) is an optimal time to visit the wildlife havens of the Falklands and South Georgia. Expect to see huge numbers of Southern Elephant Seals (one of my favourite marine mammals) and King, Macaroni, Gentoo, Magellanic Penguins (and hopefully many others such as Adelies also). Fur seals, albatross, cetaceans, and many more. Also of course the stunning scenery of Antarctica (heading down the peninsula as far as the Lemaire Channel).
There are a few sea days involved in this trip traversing between the islands, but most people find the amazing islands are worth any "bed days". So far I've managed to avoid being disabled by this on my Southern Ocean voyages, and usually spend part of each day photographing the seabirds that inevitably follow the ship.
Cost: approximately US$9800..US$15900


Keep in mind that these trips are run by a major expedition cruise company. Each trip will involve travel on a ship for an extended period. Each would be for a group of 15 photographers, plus myself as instructor. Although we would not be the only ones on the ship, we would be an official group within the voyage (in the same way that some voyages include climbing, diving, or kayaking groups). I would be working with the ship's expedition leader and we will be doing things like optimising the ship's arrival/departure times along the voyages for optimal lighting and wildlife conditions. The costs of the trips will of course vary based on your choice of cabin, and are essentially the same as you'd be paying without the photography component of the trips.

On these trips I would primarily be there to help you improve your skills and take the best photos you can of these wonderful environments. My own photography has to come second to that. I've seen some polar voyages which are billed by cruise operators as having a noted photographer included. While these can work well, sometimes they're akin to "tours" rather than workshops with an instructor. 15 people is a larger group than I usually take on workshops, but the ship's crew will be taking care of the logistics which makes it possible for me to give my full attention to a larger group.

Please register your interest!

If you might be interested in either of these trips, please help me by sending an email asking to be put on the waiting list for the particular trip you're interested in ("NORWAY" or "ANTARCTICA"). When the trips are confirmed, those people on the waiting lists will be sent booking details prior to public announcements.

Thanks!
Continue reading "Polar Summer Photography Workshops"...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My new favourite duck!

I wasn't expecting this, but while at Slimbridge Wetland Centre I decided that I have a new favourite duck. The Eider (which many people know of indirectly from eiderdown) is a visually arresting animal.

Male Eider
7D, ISO 800, 320mm (A2_022162)

Both sexes
7D, ISO 800, 400mm (A2_022223)
The male's plumage is quite different from that of the females, with their eyes hidden in their black cap, a peach tint to their chest, and minty green at the back of the head. It's quite different from any type of duck I'm familiar with back home.

As you can see on the right, the females have much more camouflaged appearance (perfect for sitting quietly on their nests lined with eiderdown).
Continue reading "My new favourite duck!"...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where is David up to?

If you've visited the Norway trip index page (under the "About David" menu at the top of the page) lately you'll have seen the automatically-generated map. With my travel up and down the Norwegian coast this will give you an idea of where in the world I'm at.

The map is currently showing the last month's worth of locations, auto-zoomed to cover the last week's locations. Thus right now it's showing everything from Australia over to the UK, but later this week it will zoom in on the UK locations, and over the next month it will settle down on Norway.

The map's been running for well over a month now, so we've been able to get it running quite smoothly.

New points are automatically added to the map after my location is updated on FireEagle (sometimes using my SPOT Messenger). This means that even when I have no internet connection I can update the map. Currently there's no link from the map back to individual blog posts (just in case you were wondering).

Note that the dates shown on the map are in UTC ("GMT") as the system doesn't know how to automatically determine the right timezone for each location. But the system as it is was fairly easy to set up! Hopefully it will help you put my travels into context.
Continue reading "Where is David up to?"...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

London roaming

Fixed my phone issues yesterday! The underlying problem was simple: I'm a doofus. It's the first trip I've done with an iPhone, and I hadn't kept track of how high the roaming data charges in Bangkok were! In fact they could be just as high here if I don't keep an eye on which network the phone locks onto. I'm glad I was using a pre-paid SIM with a good call history.

Hyde Park friend
5DmkII, 90mm (A2_021903)

Central Hall, Natural History Museum
5DmkII, 24mm (A2_021923)
Arc of the Eye
5DmkII, 95mm (A2_021950)
London's been fun. I think I'm over the jetlag now, and the tube's quite functional (other than line closures for weekend maintenance causing me to have to change twice for a simple trip, but that's part of the whole experience I guess). After last night's WWFM Flash Mob event I had drinks with some fellow geocachers (including several Norwegians who were very interested in my Hurtigruten work). But overall I've just been doing some touristy things.

The weather's been a bit wild and woolly, with last night's fireworks (for the Lord Mayor's Show) being cancelled. It's windy from time to time, but it's really just been grey and damp: basically what I expected for this time of year. Just for a change, today there's a bright blue clear sky. We'll see how long that lasts...
Continue reading "London roaming"...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

London calling...

Just a quick post to show that I didn't get lost in transit somewhere above Asia! Coming in through Customs at Heathrow was a breeze - I got waved into the Fasttrack lane and went straight through. Of course then I had to wait ages for my luggage to appear, so it wasn't really a speed advantage in the end!

Mobile comms are being a problem though. My phones worked OK in Bangkok, and I got to send one SMS after I landed at Heathrow, but ever since that one of my SIMs refuses to talk to the world, and the other one won't do data and won't receive calls. But at least I can send/receive SMS and make calls with it (even if they're expensive calls). Hopefully this will get sorted soon. Meanwhile I'm sheltering inside the British Library from the rain this morning and taking advantage of their free wireless networking. Yesterday included a visit to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum - well worth it!

No photos in today's post though. I've been taking photos, but have been distracted enough by the jetlag and the phone issues that I haven't got the downloading/geocoding routine happening yet...
Continue reading "London calling..."...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Packing for travel

I had planned to post an article about the choices I was making about packing my camera/computer gear for travel to the antipodes, but the plans have had to be rather fluid (for example less than a week before leaving I was told of some extras I needed to fit in) so I've decided to report it after the fact.

In fact by the time you read this I'll probably be in the hands of the airlines, winging my way across the globe and having paid my first installment of excess baggage fees (we'll see how much of that is required).
Keep an eye on the travel map to see where I'm up to!
Continue reading "Packing for travel"...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wildlife Photography Workshops: January 2010

We have a couple of available places on my Wildlife Photography workshops in Portland in January. If you're interested, now would be a good time to book! Balances are due in early December.

The workshops (there are two, on consecutive weekends) start on a Friday night at our accommodation in Portland, and finish on Monday afternoon. Most of our time will be spent at the nearby Gannet colony, where we will have special access to the birds: through the locked gates and past the guard dogs! The colony is the only one on Australia's mainland (most colonies are on islands) so is being closely guarded from undue human and feral animal disruption. We will be minimising our interference with the birds but you will get very close to them, and the photographic opportunities will be wonderful!
On either the Sunday or Monday (depending on weather conditions) we will also be going out on a boat to photograph the seals and surf at a nearby seal colony.

I'm very excited about these workshops: it's a special location that has been fruitful for me in the past, and now I get to share it with two groups of attendees. We've kept each group small (a limit of 6 people, plus myself and my assistant) to maximise your experiences.

For further information about them, head on over to the workshop page. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to contact me!

I will be going overseas soon, but don't let that interfere with your planning. I will have 'net and phone access throughout my trip, and there will be people here to clear the PO box, bank cheques, and whatever else is required.
Continue reading "Wildlife Photography Workshops: January 2010"...