Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Photo Composition Tip - Photographing People

When you are photographing a person you should always focus on the eyes... the eyes create a connection with the subject and the person looking at your photo.

Mongolia... here we come...

In just a few weeks, 7 of us will be travelling across Mongolia, eventually ending up at the Naadam Festival.

The biggest festival of the Mongolian year is the Naadam Festival celebrated in Mongolia nationwide on July 11-13. Naadam is properly know as “Eryn gurvan naadam”, after the three manly games of wrestling, horse racing, and archery making up the core activities of the National Festival.

Mongolians love to dress in their best traditional costumes and riding on their most beautiful horses during Naadam.


Mongolian wrestling has no weight divisions, so mostly the biggest wrestlers are often the best. The wrestlers are divided into 2 sides and it begins with zasuul honoring the glorious titled wrestlers to each other by their unique sounded speech and while wrestlers do short eagle dance by putting hand at the shoulder of the zasuul.  Wrestler wears gutul heavy big boots, shuudag tight unflattering pants and zodog open-fronted and long sleeved small vest across the shoulders. Winners are bestowed glorious titles depending on how many rounds they win. There are nachin (falcon) – 5 rounds; khartsaga (hawk) – 6 rounds; zaan (elephant) – 7 rounds; garid (the Garuda) – 8 rounds and arslan (lion) – given to the winner of the tournament. When an arslan wins 2 years in a row he becomes an avarga, or titan. One renowned wrestler was given the most prestigious and lengthy title of the ‘Eye-Pleasing Nationally Famous Mighty and Invincible Giant’. All titles signify strength and are given during the national festival Naadam. There is a variety of wrestling methods and some elders say there are hundreds of them. Mongolians are really excellent at wrestling, riding and archery.

Horse racing

Mongolians loved horse racing for over 21 centuries. In modern times, horse racing is mainly held during Naadam Festival and Lunar New Year. Riders are kids from age five to 12. There are six categories of horse racing, depending on the age of the horses; shudlen a two-year-old horse will race for 15km while six-year-old azarga and ikh nas horses race for up to 30km. There is no special track but just open countryside. Before a race, the riders sing an ancient song –Gyngoo for the horses wishing for strength and speed and audience all decked out in traditional finery. Some riders prefer saddle and some not. The winner is declared tumnii ekh, or ‘leader of 10 thousand’ and the five winning horses are admired and the riders drink some special airag and sprinkles on the horse’s back. After the races, praise-singer extols the best riders and their horses and 5 winning horses and theirs owners would be talked about in reverence by the crowd.


Five lines engraved on an ancient Mongolian target immortalizing the phenomenal record of Yesuhei- baatar, saying that his arrow hit the target at a distance of 536 meters. The bow is an ancient invention dating back to the Mesolithic Period. Ancient Mongolians contributed to design of the bow as a combat weapon. Today, Mongolians use less complicated form of archery than in the ancient times; targeting at cork cylinders braided together with leather straps. It is four meters in line and 50cm high. The target is placed on the ground at a distance of 75 meters for men and 60 meters for women. In the past, Mongolians used three types of bows; “big hand” (165-170cm),”average hand” (160cm), “small hand' (150cm). Today Mongolians mostly use the average hand bow, which requires a force of 22 to 38kg to draw.

Arrows are made of pine wood and feather fins allowing it to reach distance of 900 meters. Naadam archery also attracts individual archers as well as team of 8-12 persons. Male archer shoots forty arrows at each target. Traditionally dressed judges stand by the targets raising their hands in the air to indicate the quality of the shot with uukhai sound but surprisingly never get injured. They praise the best shot in a traditional drawing recitative voice.

Then, in October of 2014, Jim Zuckerman and I are headed to partake in the Golden Eagle Festival.

In western Mongolia, deep within the Altai mountain range, an ancient tradition of hunting with Golden Eagles is still alive. The Kazakhs of Mongolia train their eagles to hunt for rabbits and foxes. Once a year, hunters from all over Bayan-Olgii province gather to celebrate this traditional skill and compete against each other challenges that show off the abilities of both birds and their trainers. Prizes are awarded for the fastest eagle, the best traditional Kazakh dress, and more. Various folklore performances are given during the festival. We take you to participate in this regional festival and also to visit with Kazakh families, join the hunters on hunting trips, and see different sights in Bayan Olgii province, home of the Kazakh minority in Mongolia .

Monday, 24 June 2013

Photo Composition Tip - Symmetry and Patterns

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made., They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene. (like i did above with the bird)

To learn more about composition, check out our composition workshops at the Photographer's Lounge.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Photo Composition Tip - Rule of thirds

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.

Photo Composition Tip on naturally framing a subject

Framing a subject... naturally framing a focal point is a great way to anchor a photo. It gives an image a natural border and keeps the eyes on the subject.

This image uses the clock face at the Musee D'Orsay as the frame for the Sacre Coeur in the background. Both have interest, but the eye is naturally drawn to the Sacre Coeur.

The next time you are out taking photos, try to use elements to frame your image.

If you want to learn more about composition, check out our Composition Workshops at the Photographer's Lounge.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Photo Composition Tip - Fill The Frame

While empty spaces can be used effectively in photos to create stunning results you’re much more likely to get a ‘wow’ from those looking at your photos if your shots are filled with interest.

If you want to learn how to compose better photos you can always attend one of our composition workshops at the Photographers Lounge.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Photo Composition Tip - Point of View

Before photographing your subject, take time to think about where you will shoot it from. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.

For this photo i wanted to capture the eiffel tower and the building behind. From street level on the bridge crossing the river it was too busy. I think I captured a much more impactful photo when i went back, put on a longer telephoto and climbed up a few flights in a building that was behind me.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The New Sigma 120-300 f2.8 DG HSM OS Travels to Mongolia

Sigma 120-300 F2.8 DG HSM OS
Starting in 2013 all newly produced interchangeable lenses from Sigma will be designed for, and organised into one of three product categories: Contemporary, Art and Sports. Each line has a clearly defined concept to guide photographers towards the specific lenses for their photographic interests.

The concept of these three categories are as follows:
Contemporary – These lenses incorporate the very latest technology and keep size and weight to a minimum, without compromising their advanced optical performance or utility. High-performance, versatile, compact and superbly portable, these lenses will be largely comprised of standard zooms, telephoto zooms and high-magnification zooms for an array of photography, including landscape and travel photography, and casual portraiture.
Art – These lenses are developed with an emphasis on artistic touch and are designed to meet the expectations of users who value a creative, dramatic outcome. Along with landscapes, portraits, still-life, close-up and casual snaps, these lenses are perfect for the kind of photography that unleashes the inner artist. Ideal for studio photography, they offer just as much of an expressive scope when capturing architecture, starry skies, underwater shots and many other scenes. This category will be comprised of many focal lengths and designs, such as large-aperture prime lenses, wide-angle lenses, ultra wide-angle lenses, and macro and fisheye lenses.
Sports - With their high-level optical performance and expressive power, these lenses can capture fast-moving subjects, even at distance. This line also offers a variety of functions to aid the photographer in challenging conditions and scenarios. Besides sports photography, the lenses are also ideal for nature shots featuring birds, wild animals and other creatures, and for the capture of aircraft, trains, race cars and more. The Sports line is also unique in that users can adjust the lenses’ focus speeds and the focus limiters via a button on the lens. The Sports category will be comprised of telephoto lenses, telephoto zoom lenses, super telephoto lenses, super telephoto zoom lenses, and more.

Since my new Sigma 120-300 F2.8 DG HSM OS will be showing up any day I figured I would discuss this new telephoto zoom lens.

Here is what the company says about this lens:

The Sigma 120-300 F2.8 DG HSM OS is the first lens introduced into the Sports category for Sigma’s Global Vision. Designed for full frame cameras but can work with APS-C sized sensors as well, the 120-300 F2.8 has a large aperture and versatile focal length, ideal for a wide range of photography. Though placed in the Sports category, the 120-300 F2.8 is also great for nature, automotive, wildlife, and everything in between. Equipped with state of the art technology such as a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM), an Optical Stabilizer (OS) and Inner Focusing and Zooming, the 120-300 F2.8 ensures sharp and beautiful images. The HSM allows for a quiet, fast, and accurate autofocusing while the OS compensates for camera shake while shooting by hand. Two FLD glass elements, which have performance equal to fluorite, are incorporated with one SLD element to reduce color aberration at the highest degree. The Sports category offers not only a higher level of customization through the Sigma USB dock, but also has a dust and splash proof design.

The following are the new features that Sigma is promoting about the lens.
Enhanced Usability - This lens features durability that stands up to challenging photographic situations and hard use demands along with the intuitive and enjoyable usability that photographers need. Since the lens uses Sigma's inner focus and inner zoom technologies, adjusting the focus and zoom rings does not change the length of the lens, resulting in excellent hold for the selected ring positions. Since the front of the lens does not move, the lens is compatible with a circular polarizer. In every way, Sigma has designed the lens for exceptional usability. The zoom ring is textured to allow fingers to find the correct position easily. Designed for seamless integration with the rest of the lens, the four control switches feature carefully placed lettering and buttons and specially shaped screws. The lens hood has also been completely redesigned, even down to the screws that connect it to the lens, and the newly designed tripod collar provides for connection to a camera strap.

A New Design - All lenses in Sigma's new Sports line come with a hood with a high-quality rubberized connector and feature a newly designed lens cap and AF/MF switch, and are designed for intuitive use and superior functionality. Inside, HSM (hypersonic motor) delivers high AF speed and extremely quiet performance. An enhanced algorithm offers even smoother automatic focusing. Full-time manual focus override is another key feature that leaves the artistic touches in the photographer's hands. The brass mount combines high precision with rugged construction. Its treated surfaces and enhanced strength contribute to the exceptional durability of the lens.

Resistance to dust and water - This lens is ready for all the tough situations that pros encounter. The mount connection area, manual focus ring, customization switch and other controls, switch panels and cover connection areas are all designed to be dust and water-resistant. The zoom and focus rings are also designed for exceptional usability in real-world circumstances.

Image quality of a fixed focal length lens - Offering excellent image expression and a low F-number, the large-aperture 300 mm F2.8 lens is a favourite piece of equipment among professional photographers. While taking this spec to the next level with powerful zoom capability, Sigma has also used two lens elements made of fluorite-equivalent FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) glass and one element made of SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass, which help minimize chromatic aberration and provide image quality that rivals that of a fixed-focus lens.

F2.8 brightness throughout the entire zoom range - This lens incorporates two FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) glass elements, which have performance equal to fluorite, and one SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass element to minimize chromatic aberration. Since it also minimizes sagittal coma flare and coma at the edges of the image, it is able to rival a fixed-focus lens in image quality.

Exclusive low-dispersion glass - The degree to which light is refracted by glass depends on the light's wavelength. This fact causes different colors of light to focus at slightly different points. The result is chromatic aberration, the color fringing that is particularly noticeable in telephoto lenses. Most chromatic aberration can be removed by combining a high-refractivity convex lens element with a low-refractivity concave element. Yet residual chromatic aberration known as “secondary spectrum” may still remain. To minimize this secondary spectrum, which can be a serious issue with conventional lenses, Sigma lenses feature up to three types of exclusive low-dispersion glass offering superior performance: ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion), SLD (Special Low Dispersion) and FLD (“F” Low Dispersion). In particular, FLD glass offers ultra-low dispersion in combination with high transmittance and the anomalous dispersion characteristics of fluorite. Meticulous deployment of these types of exclusive low-dispersion glass and optimization of power distribution gives Sigma lenses superlative image rendition undiminished by residual chromatic aberration.

The new A1 – MTF Measuring System - There are three requirements for outstanding lenses: fine design, precise manufacturing and inspection that ensures compliance with all specifications. Sigma lenses are born of well-thought-out design concepts and sophisticated, advanced Japanese manufacturing technology; the final clincher is our lens performance evaluation. We used to measure lens performance using conventional sensors. However, we've now developed our own A1* proprietary MTF (modulation transfer function) measuring system using 46-megapixel Foveon direct image sensors. Applying this system, we check each lens in our new lines at our Aizu factory, our sole production site. Even previously undetectable high-frequency details are now within the scope of our quality control inspections, allowing us to deliver consistently high lens performance. Our MTF system has the capability to test lenses for full-size 20+ megapixel 35mm digital SLR cameras.

46-megapixel Foveon direct image sensor - The 46 effective megapixel (4,800 × 3,200 × 3 layers) and 44 recording megapixel (4,704 × 3,136 × 3 layers) 23.5 × 15.7mm APS-C X3 direct image sensor captures all primary RGB colors at each and every pixel location, ensuring the capture of full and complete color. Using three silicon-embedded layers of photo detectors, stacked vertically to take advantage of silicon's ability to absorb red, green and blue light at different respective depths, it efficiently reproduces color more accurately, and offers sharper resolution, pixel for pixel, than any conventional image sensor. Since color moiré is not generated, the use of a low-pass filter is not required, meaning light and color, generated by the 46-megapixel APS-C X3 direct image sensor is captured with a three-dimensional feel.

Ultra-high precision and quality - all made in Japan - All Sigma's manufacturing–right down to molds and parts–is carried out under an integrated production system, entirely in Japan. We are now one of the very few manufacturers whose products are solely "made in Japan." We like to think our products are somehow imbued with the essence of our homeland, blessed as it is with clean air and water, and focused, hard-working people. We pride ourselves on the authentic quality of Sigma products, born of a marriage between highly attuned expertise and intelligent, advanced technology. Our sophisticated products have satisfied professionals and lovers of photography all over the world, because our manufacturing is based on genuine craftsmanship, underpinned by the passion and pride of our experts.

New Software and USB dock - For our new product lines, we have developed exclusive SIGMA Optimization Pro software that allows the user to update the lens firmware and adjust focus position and other parameters. The user will be able to connect the lens to a computer with a special USB DOCK and use easy-to-operate on-screen controls to create personal lens specifications. For Sports lenses, the focus limiter will also be customisable.
Lens Specifications

Optical construction:
23 elements in 18 groups in 1x SLD+ 2xFLD elements
Number of aperture blades:
9 (circular)
min. focus distance:
1.50-2.50m (max. magnification ratio 1:8.1 @ 200mm)
Filter size:
105mm (non-rotating)
barrel-shaped, bayonet mount, supplied
Other features:
detachable tripod mount, compatible to the Sigma AF 1.4x and 2x APO tele converters, Super Multi Layer (SML) coating

When you read about the lens, all this looks great on paper, Sigma seems to be listening to photographers and making the adjustments to an already superior line-up of lenses.

I have now read about half a dozen reviews, most of them quite positive… So when Sigma asked me if I wanted to shoot with this lens, I jumped at it. I decided I wanted to take it for its first good workout in a real world environment… It is making the trek with me to Mongolia for the latest workshop at the Photographers Lounge.

During that workshop I will be posting images taken with the 120-300mm f2.8... I will be giving it a workout shooting the Naadam Festival, some birding photography and will see how it performs taking landscape and photos of the old monasteries...

Check back as I will be posting images here and on facebook between July 7th and 14th... then when I get home I will write up a summary of my first thought on this lens.

*update* All photos have been now posted on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kpeplounge and http://www.kpepphotography.com/Travel/Mongolia/30514346_r7dgfH#!i=2631949662&k=QfCFLFv




Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Photo Composition Tip - Experiment

With the dawn of the digital age in photography we no longer have to worry about film processing costs or running out of shots. As a result, experimenting with our photos' composition has become a real possibility; we can fire off tons of shots and delete the unwanted ones later at absolutely no extra cost. Take advantage of this fact and experiment with your composition - you never know whether an idea will work until you try it.

To learn more about photo composition, check out the competition workshops at the Photographer's Lounge

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Photo Composition Tip - Depth in a Photo

Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognises these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.

If you want to learn more about composition techniques, check out our composition classes at the Photographer's Lounge.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Photo Composition Tip

Two important elements of a photograph's composition are "leading lines" and "light". The eye is drawn towards the brightest spot(s) in a photo and a line, natural or man made aide in leading someones eye.

This photo uses the lighter bench on the bottom left as an anchor, then the path leads the eye into the heart of the photo, with the brighter sky as another draw of the eye.

A properly composed photo rarely happens by change. Next time you are out shooting look for leading lines and light as a way to create interest in your images.

If you want to learn more you can check out our "Composition Workshops" at the Photographer's Lounge.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Making the right choice on your Photo Safari to Tanzania - Ten tips based on my experience

Africa is unique experience, one that should be experienced by everyone at least once in their life. I am blessed to have the opportunity to take groups to East Africa and watch their faces as they experience the sights and sounds of the Serengeti for the first time.

Watching the facial expressions when we come upon a herd of a few hundred thousand wildebeest, or seeing a family of Cheetah frolicking in the grass is what makes it all worth while for me...

From my last workshop in April of 2013 I am now left with memories that will last a lifetime, not just photos, but I will always remember the look on the face of a friend, Gary Simmons, as we sat in our luxury tent and listened to an elephant stomp and make loud vocalisations like it was on top of us... as if on cue when we started laughing, a large snap and crash occurred. The elephant had knocked over a tree not too far from our room. It was an experience that Gary will always remember... and frankly so will I...

The joy of being on a safari can only be achieved if your tour company and guide(s) are looking after the little things... and that's what I want to address in this blog post. Making sure your guide has thought about the little things to make your experience everything you expected... and, I hope to help you be better prepared.
1) How many people per safari vehicle?
This is a biggie for a photography workshop / tour... You spend significant time in a safari vehicle and this is where you will be taking 80% of your photos from.
Sometimes the amount of people per vehicle is overlooked. The vehicles, if your tour company has extended Land Rovers or Toyotas, has three rows behind the driver with a pop up roof. The ideal situation is 3 people per vehicle so that you have unobstructed views from both sides of the vehicle in your own row.
There is nothing worse than being on the left side of the vehicle and a lion pride is on the right side of the vehicle... and even worse, another body is beside you getting the great shots while you struggle to find room to shoot.
2) How often do you move lodges?
A safari, while a fantastic experience for any photographer, can be a busy trip. Lodges are scattered throughout the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti and the animals will move to follow the migration. Some are stationary, but many follow the migration.
Before you book, check how many times you move. Sometimes it is unsettling if you are constantly moving to different lodges. While its nice to see different areas of the parks, it can be tiring and you can feel like you are living out of a suitcase and always thinking ahead about the next move and not focusing on the sights and sounds you should be enjoying today.
A good tour company and guide will know where the animals are throughout the year and will put you in the right lodges to maximise your time there.
Hey, you may want to see more areas and do not care if you are moving every couple of days, and that's OK... just make sure you are aware.
But keep in mind, a lodge that is 25 miles away from another lodge is not like driving 25 miles in North America. The roads are dirt roads and 25 miles will take you an hour or two with not that many stops to take photos.
3) Transportation to and from Arusha to get to the game viewing.
Check to see how you will be getting to the Crater or the Serengeti. Usually you will drive out from Arusha with a stop in Arusha the fist night, a second stop closer to Ngorongoro Conservation area after a day of game viewing, then a final drive out to the Serengeti the next day.
I have seen some people drive straight from the airport and that can take half a day or more to get out to the Serengeti with straight driving. That is the last thing you want to do after your International flights.
My suggestion is to drive one way, fly the other way. There are a few airports right in the Serengeti that are close to the lodges that you will be staying at.
Check to see how you are driven to and from the game viewing areas.
4) Food and Drinks.
Most companies will accommodate you for any food requirements. My tours can accommodate vegetarians, Muslims and Kosher requirements. Some lodges will have set menus, others will give you options... so enquire before you go to make sure your meals are satisfactory.
Water, this is important. Check that lodges use bottled water for drinking and ask how they get their water for showers. And, what precautions they use to make safe.... I hate to bring up the negatives of being on safari, but be safe, and ask.
I have never gotten sick when I have been in Africa, but when I was travelling there before I lead workshops, I asked the questions before I sent.
5) Your African Guide.
The guides are all generally great. But make sure you are using a credited company that has been through some kind of schooling. You are literally putting your experience into the hands of a stranger. If they are not knowledgeable, sorry, but your trip could be ruined.
I use guides that have been trained, have significant guiding experience and know the little things that will add to your safari experience.
Now that I have found a few guides that have experience taking photographers around I am going to keep using them. They do the little things that make all the difference in the world. Positioning the vehicle so the sun is behind you... driving to the places they know the animals are at so we are there in optimal light and most importantly, know the characteristics of the animals so that they can alert you of any movement that you will want to photograph.
6) Before you travel... will your guide(s) prepare you for your safari.
There are anomalies and lessons that one can only learn by being in the environment. What gear do you really need, how many batteries should you take, how often will you be able to charge, is there Internet and phone coverage. Will they prepare you for what the voltage in Africa and how to safely use your North American or European electronics.
Then there are inoculations and travelling with camera gear... some cases are great for travelling with, and others are great for being there... which is best for you? Your guide or PRO photographer should be preparing you for your travel... why stress, ask the right questions and make sure you are prepared.
In regards to being medically prepared... what shots do you need, when do you get the shots, and how much are they? A tour company and guide will be able to get you this information well in advance of travel so you can have piece of mind.

One anomaly for example... If you fly straight to Tanzania it is not mandatory that you get Yellow Fever shots at the time that I wrote this blog... but if you fly through Kenya, or go to Kenya on your safari before entering Tanzania, you need a Yellow Fever shot... I would hate to see you show up at the border of Tanzania and not have that Yellow Fever shot because you didn't know you needed it.
7) Your PRO photographer guide... are they a shooter or a teacher?
I admit, as a photographer its easy to get carried away and shooting... and yes, even the PRO photographer guide will be taking photos while you are there... but the good pro photographer/teacher will remember why they are there... they are there for you. Without you, they wouldn't be there...
A good workshop will have teaching time in the vehicle and time set aside to do editing teaching. A good PRO photographer will prepare you before and during the workshop to make sure you are ready to get the shots. But they will also take the time during harsh light mid day, or after dinner to go through your images to give you some feedback.
Ask the question before you go... will you get one on one teaching? Will they teach you new styles of shooting that you may have never tried? Ask to see their images from Africa... this is your bucket list trip... you deserve to be lead by the best leader you can afford.

8) How much money do you need to take with you on your safari?
I would take $600 to $750USD with you for a week or week and a half safari. Your meals will be included and when out in the vehicle you should have your refreshments in a cooler, and included in your price. The only things you will have to buy are souvenirs for your family and friends and possibly your alcoholic drinks and soft drinks at the lodges.

But you will also need $50USD or $100USD once you land for a VISA. It will all depend on what country you are coming from . Your VISA payment needs to be in cash... so make sure it is handy when you get to customs in Tanzania.

You will also need lots of $1 bills. That is the standard tip amount and its always good to show up in Tanzania with $20 or $30 in $1 bills. Some lodges have a tip box that you tip before you leave, but some lodges do not have that tip box.

You may not believe in tipping, but that is how the workers really make their money... its up to you, but if you do want to tip, its better to be prepared.

9) Layovers while travelling to and from Africa.
Depending on where you are coming from there are different routes that will get you to Tanzania. You can fly through Amsterdam, London, Istanbul, Paris, Ethiopia and other various cities. From North America the most common routes are through Europe...

Next year for example... I will be headed back to run my next workshop in the Serengeti... I will probably fly through Amsterdam and take a day to go photograph the Tulips in Amsterdam during the April timeframe... for a couple hundred dollars, the experience is worth it while you are there.

Before you book, talk to your travel agent and see what your options are going to, or headed back from Africa.

10) Taking time to enjoy the experience
While we are all going on a photo safari to take photos... do not forget to sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of Africa. Years from now when photos are forgotten, memories will still be there in your mind... Take lots of mental photos and keep those memories with you forever.

11) Price... my workshop is under $5000... as you compare workshops you will see that my price is far better than many other African Photo Safari's out there. I do not place high fees on my workshop and I work with the people on the ground to negotiate excellent accommodation for good prices.

Here are some photos we took on our last safari. Click Here
I also ask that you check out my next photography workshop in Tanzania. That workshop can be found here...

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Provence and Paris - A fantastic destination for any photography enthusiast

Greetings from Avignon, France...

For me there is no other region in the world that stirs my imagination and stimulates my senses as strongly as Provence. The soft light and its stunning landscape of pastel colours have inspired writers and artists from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Van Gogh and Picasso. The fragrant countryside with its wild herbs is scattered with historic fortified medieval towns, all Just waiting for you to explore.

The Luberon, a protected area in the south of France, ranks amongst the most beautiful areas of Provence. This is the Provence made famous by artists and Hollywood, the historic villages of the Luberon Valley (Menerbes, Roussillon, Gourdes, Bonnieux, Lacoste) are France’s answer to the Hamptons in the United States… and to the west, Avignon, a destination unique unto itself.

Framed by 4.3km of preserved stone ramparts, this graceful city is the belle of Provence’s ball.  After having its turn as the seat of Papal power bestowed upon it, Avignon with a bevy of magnificent art and architecture, none grander than the massive medieval fortress and papal palace, the Palais des Papes, has now turned into a must see location in the area.

Famed for its annual performing arts festival, these days Avignon is an ideal spot from which to step out into the surrounding region. But before you venture out of Avignon, just mere steps from the downtown lies the fabled bridge, the Pont St-Bénézet, aka the Pont d’Avignon.

And then there is Gordes, a town perched as if it was placed by some divine presence, equipped with stunning views, inspiring architecture, and the host of some of the most amazing lavender fields you will ever capture with your lens. But a must visit for any photographer is Notre-Dame de Senanque, a Cistercian abbey near the village of Gordes.

But what I found truly unique to the Luberon Valley near Gordes  were these small, dry-stone buildings called bories scattered throughout the countryside. There are several in the countryside in the immediate vicinity of the village, including the famous trois soldats.

If you want to visit this area I am leading a semi-private workshop for a maximum of 4 people starting July 15 of 2014. There are only two spots available and we already started to book hotels and creating the exact itinerary.

Our trip will see us spend a few days in Camargue to photograph along the seaside, have photographic sessions with the Camargue horses and experience the Mediterranean area before we head north into Provence.

In Provence we will visit Avignon, Arles, Gordes and the Luberon Valley to photograph the landscape, lavender and medieval structures. 

Halfway through our 8 days we will take a high speed train to Paris and spend the remainder of the workshop shooting the Parisian highlights during the day and night. I have been to Paris numerous times and we will be hitting the highlights at the right time of day to maximize the best light. We will also be bringing in two professional models with a goal of capturing the true spirit of the city of love through the eyes of young lovers.

Here is the itinerary as it exists right now…

Day One
July 13th
Arrive in Marseilles airport in the afternoon and meet at a predetermined location at or near the airport.
Drive rental van from Marseilles to Hôtel Les Rizières in Les Stes Maries de la Mer and check into hotel.
Spend balance of the day taking photos along Mediterranean seaside and of Flamingos in Parc that surrounds the hotel and area.
Visit local ranches where the horses will be in fields and the bulls will be in fields.
Day Two
Early morning photo shoot of Camargue horses in surf
Go and photograph horses and bulls in fields in the area.
Go through our photos from the morning session.
Photo shoot with Camargue horses later in the day seaside.
Day Three
City of Arles as it is market day and the artisans and farmers come into the city and sell their products. It is 35 minutes from the hotel.
Other things to photograph in Arles are the ancient Roman coliseum,  Abbey of Montmajour, and Theatre Antique.
Go through the photos over lunch.
Photograph the fields in Aux du Provence and go to Avignon later in the day. Check into hotel
Head to Pont du Gard and photograph the aqueduct before sunset and at sunset.
Day Four
Drive to the Senanque abbey surrounded by lavender fields, then go to village of Gordes, rest of day in the lavender fields. We will spend from before sunrise to after sunset in the countryside photographing Lavendar, mountain regions, Baux en Provence, herb fields, the city of Gordes.
Go through the photos over lunch.
We will look for numerous dry-stone buildings called bories scattered throughout the countryside. There are several in the countryside in the immediate vicinity of the village, including this famous trois soldats and drive to Luberon Regional Parc to photograph more mountainous regions of the south of France near Apt and Garges
Day Five
Sunrise shoot on the Rhone river at the castle with the infamous old bridge and then photograph some of the ramparts, towers, belfries and palaces. (if we want more lavender we will drive early to the lavender fields, possibly back to Senanque and be back by 11:30am.)
Drop off rental car and the train to Paris leaves at 12:30pm and arrives at 3:11 at Gare Lyon in Paris. – (Spend the time on the train to go through photos.)
Go to hotel, check-in and we will head to the Eiffel tower, along the Sienne River and over to the Louvre and surrounding area for a night shoot that extends after dark.
Day Six
An all-day city tour via the metro and walking… Sacre Coeur, Montmartre cemetery, Moulin Rouge, Musee d'Orsay, la Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, arc de triumph, French cityscape and intimate street settings, Latin quarter. – day will end in Montmarte for night photography of illuminated Sacre Coeur and Moulin Rouge.
Go through the photos over lunch to make sure we are taking the photos you want.
We will leave the hotel before sunrise and come back to hotel after sunset.
Day Seven
We will pick the spots we liked best from the 2 days before and bring models for a morning and an early evening shoot at these locations. We will have one female and one male model and photograph French lovers, unique poses of models in different outfits.
When shooting models we can have the photos sent to the laptop via eye-fi cards so we can look at the images as we go.
Between two model shoots we can either take model around the city or photograph the gardens throughout the city
Day Eight
One last time to go through the images that were taken during the previous seven days.
Depart for home as flights demand

Price: $5795 USD. A $750USD deposit is required for this workshop.

Single Accommodation
Breakfast each morning
Dinner Each night
Domestic travel, including van and high speed rail to Paris.
Models in Paris

Not Included:
Personal costs such as internet, phone
Travel Insurance
International Airfare
Anything not listed as included

If this workshop interests you, please contact me. This is a private workshop that was designed for a friend of mine. But if you want to come along, we are opening up a maximum of 2 more spots. If you book early you can have your input in the final itinerary for this workshop. My email address is kevin@photographers-lounge.com

Friday, 7 June 2013

White horses of Camargue

Few roads head through the Camargue plain. This area unfolds between the two mouths of the Rhone river on the southern coast of France. While travellers rarely leave these roads the Camargue horse moves with sure-footed confidence through this marshy wasteland.

With an area of over 930 km2 (360 sq mi), the Camargue is western Europe's largest river delta. It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes. These are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.

Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland. The central area around the shoreline of the Étang de Vaccarès has been protected as a regional park since 1927, in recognition of its great importance as a haven for wild birds. In 2008 it was incorporated into the larger Parc naturel régional de Camargue.

But the bell of the ball are those Shaggy-maned, Camargue stallions, scarred by battles amongst their own herd, their shrill calls echo in the vast emptiness of the area, and their presence, impressive and intoxicating.

The horses of the Camargue are believed to be of Arab breed, introduced in medieval times by Saracen invaders who landed on the nearby coast to sweep into Spain. Some of the Saracens’ sturdy white horses roamed riderless into the Camargue area and bred there, creating a new home for themselves.

Whether you are a painter or photographer, the light here is golden. Whether it is kissing the water of the medetranian, caressing the white coat of the Camargue stallions, or creating that perfect catch light in one of the thousands of birds eyes… you have to visit the area to appreciate what we experienced.
I already decided I will return next year. Look for a private workshop that I will be doing in July of 2014 and a 2 day extension to my Paris workshop with Denise Ippolito in September 2014.
Contact me if you are interested,

Monday, 3 June 2013

How to Photograph Birds of Prey

Here are some quick tips to keep in the back of your mind when you are heading out to shoot some birds of prey in flight...

Direction of flight

Did you know that large birds of prey like to take off into the wind for more uplift? Because of this it is always best to stand downwind.

If you do this it means you’ll get the birds flying towards you for a better shot. You will also have a better view of their eyes and wingspan.

Focal length
A 300mm f2.8 telephoto lens on a camera with a 1.5x crop-factor sensor gives you an effective focal length (EFL) of 450mm. This is a great focal length for shooting wildlife as it blurs backgrounds. However, using a 500mm lens f4 or 600mm will get you that much closer to your subjects for more intimate results and increased details.

I shoot with the Sigma 120-300 f2.8, a Sigma 150-500 f5-6.3 and a Nikon 400mm f4. I also have a 1.4x teleconverter that i use with the 120-300mm. With that teleconverter on the 120-300 f2.8 I now have a 168-420 f4.0, and that does not take into consideration with the crop factor.  Take that 420 and apply your own crop factor and that will give you the focal length that lens now offers…

Keep your distance

Always be aware of what’s behind your birds. Move around so the background is clean and uncluttered. Make sure you compose your shots so the background is as far away as possible – it’s better if it’s 50 or 60 feet away rather than 10 feet away. The further away the background, the more out of focus and less distracting it will be, especially shooting at f4 of 5.6.  

Speed it up

You’ll need to use a fast shutter speed to capture birds of prey as they move quickly, even quicker still when flying. With an aperture around f/4 or f/5.6 on a telephoto lens use a shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec – or, better still, 1/1000-1/2000 sec.

High speed shooting

When photographing wildlife and birds, it’s best to use high-speed continuous shooting mode to increase your chances of getting a good shot. Most DSLRs have a High-speed Continuous shooting mode, varying from 4 fps to 8fps…

Aperture Settings

There are a couple trains of thought. Some like to use an aperture of f4 to f7, others prefer to shoot at apertures of f9 or f11. If you want a bird in flight entirely in focus, think of the focal plane that will be in focus. Take the snowey owl in the photo above. That bird has a wingspan that can get up to 6 feet. At certain angles the sing tips would be out of focus at f5.6. I photographed the owl at f11. Even at that aperture, at the distance of 60 feet, only the front wing, head,  body and top of the back wing are in focus. The back wing is a little blurry at the very back.

I would have suffered a background that was not diffused enough, but it worked in the snow, and the owl looks pretty good.

Do not forget the lighting

It is always best to shoot when the sun is closer to the horizon. I always try to get the sun behind me so that it is lighting the bird properly with natural light. This can be overcome using an external flash and a better beemer. It will give you a burst of light to fill in the shadows if the natural light will not do the trick.

We run numerous workshops that contain birds of prey. Please feel free to check out the workshops that we run around the world.