While I do not intend to make this a travel blog, I do have a lot of travel tips that I would like to share.
Paper, especially printouts of your reservations, is something I never travel without.
Whenever I am going on a trip, especially a long or international trip, I always carry paper copies of my flight and hotel reservations. These are separated into ‘transportation’ (airplanes, rental cars, trains, etc) and ‘lodging’ (hotels, campgrounds, etc). They are then placed, in order, into a holder with 2 clear pouches on each side.
As the trip progresses, I move the paper – by placing them into another bag or discarding them. For anything with personal information (airplane reservations often have your frequent flyer number, address, e-mail), these I save and shred when I get home.
If the trip is very long, with many transfers, I may print out 2 copies of my flight and place one on the top and one on the bottom of my ‘transportation’ pile.
This is something I have done for years and have even shown to others. While most people think it is a bit silly or over the top at first, once they try the method, they keep using it. I’ve even been told that it is unusually organized for my personality. Thanks, I think.
All of this has saved me a few times. The most recent was a few years ago when I was traveling to New Zealand from Australia. As I was flying in one airline and out on another, immigration didn’t have a record of me leaving the country. Since I had the printout of my departing flight, the situation was resolved very quickly.
Paper print outs can be handy. Mobile devices can have batteries die, or have limited service. You don’t want to be in a situation where you need evidence that you have a connecting flight, and you have a dead battery in your phone.
I always like to put a technical look into the year before and try to summarize it in the first 3 months of the following year.
The Technical Stuff
In 2019, I created 21,940 photos and about 48 videos. This makes 2019 my 2nd most prolific year, behind #1, 2016 (the year where I went skiing for New Years, visited the Big Sur coast in California, spent 5 days rafting down the Grand Canyon, went to the Olympic Peninsula, and spend a month in Australia and New Zealand). 2019 is the first year where my photos used more than 1 TB.
2019 was defined by 3 large photo events. #1, like 2018, was the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. #2 was a 2-week trip to the Faroe Islands and Norway in August. #3 was a trip over New Years to Banff, AB, Canada. #3 will show up on the 2020 year in review as well.
2019 has some smaller events as well. This included a trip to several historic rail roads in Pennsylvania (Jim Thorpe, Strasburg), several trips to the beach, and a Hot Air Balloon Festival in Lancaster.
Unfortunately, I was unable to visit Longwood Gardens for the Christmas Lights this year. Oh well, maybe in 2020.
In terms of cameras used per year, this is the first year my D850/D800 won. In 2019, I clearly preferred my newest camera over the D750 for 2016-2018. These results surprised me, because I thought they would be closer together. I think there is a reason for this, which is revealed in the next section. For the first time since 2009, my D300 is not on the list. Guess it might be time to get rid of it.
Wait a minute, my most used lens was a 200-500mm? Where did that even come from?
The 200-500mm lens was a new purchase for 2019. It was primarily purchased for the previously mentioned Faroe Islands trip in order to chase puffins. This is also the reason the D850 had more photos in 2019 – the autofocus on the D850 is just better, and puffins are notoriously obnoxious to try to shoot. The majority of those 6471 images are of puffins. The rest are, mostly, me attempting to shoot images of the moon.
My second most used lens was last year’s most used lens, the 24-120 f/4. What can I say, it is a really good lens for when I want to save some weight. The third most used lens was last year’s number 2, the 24-70 f/2.8. Guess I really like this focal range.
Everything else was about in line with the usage in 2018.
The breakdown of Camera:Lens Combination is:
I don’t usually look at these results before writing this post. This actually surprises me. The really surprising part is how little I used the D750 last year.
The Good Stuff – New Stuff
As previously mentioned, in 2019, I aquired the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens and a GoPro Hero 7. And yeah, I now own a selfie stick too.
The Good Stuff – Travels
I mentioned this above, but, 2019 was a lot of smaller weekend trips, with a really big trip to the Faroe Islands and another one to Banff.
The Bad Stuff – Gear Repairs
For the first time ever, I had a non-warantee repair on a camera lens. My camera bag, unfortunately, fell out of my car. The 14-24 lens was damaged and needed to be serviced at a Nikon repair center. It was quite expensive, but the service center did a really good job and the insides work like it was new.
The Bad Stuff – Missed Goals for 2019
I was not able to meet my goal of learning how to produce videos better nor generating an income from photography. While I realize it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools, one of the reasons I’ve struggled with video is because my laptop, which is a now-3 year old Lenovo, simply struggles too much to make videos consistently.
For 2020, my plans are this:
1 trip currently being planned – Cherry Blossoms in DC in the March-April timeframe.
Goal: Actually start to make some money, whether it is stock photos or something else.
Goal: Update the blog more often. Learn how to use Gutenberg, which has replaced the old WordPress post editing system.
Goal: Work on learning how to make videos, maybe even launching a YouTube channel.
Stretch Goal: Work with a brand to showcase their gear in amazing locations.
Better late than never. A look-back at 2018 and the photos I took during that year, from a technical an analytical perspective.
I originally wrote this in February of this year, but never published it. I’ve done light editing, but left the rest as it was.
In the second of my look-back posts, I’m going to try to cover the events of my last year in Photography.
The Technical Stuff
In 2018, I created 15,014 photos and 131 videos. This makes 2018 my 5th most prolific year, behind #4, 2010 (the year I spend 18 days in Hawaii).
Unlike past years, 2018 did not have a single dominant trip. There were 3 events in 2018, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in April, a week long trip to Utah in July, and the local Pennsylvania Christmas Celebrations at Longwood Gardens and Bethlehem in November/December.
For the cameras used per year, I clearly favored my D750 for the 3rd year in a row. But for the second year in a row, the reason is somewhat clear. I use the D750 for star trails/low light situations where only the D850 can come close. Since the D850 is a purchase late in 2018, we’ll have to see what happens in 2019. I still prefer the D750 for my first time exploring an area due to the weight. I frequently combine the D750 with the 24-120 f/4.0 due to the high quality and lower weight.
My lens usage in 2018 wasn’t even close. The 24-120 f/4.0 lens was by far the favorite, accounting for nearly half of the photos taken last year. It really is a solid N-Series lens from Nikon, and it has really become a favorite, all-around, no-compromise lens for when I can only carry a single lense. It is also the cheapest of my N-Series lenses, as it was sold in a kit with my D750.
The other lens I want to call attention to is the 28-105 f/3.5-4.5. This is my oldest lens that I still use. It was the one that Ken Rockwell once called the worst lens Nikon has ever made. I love it. It is far from perfect, but it has a macro mode that produces some great images. These are from a D750 and D300 (itself a 10 year old camera) from 2018.
I have had this lens in constant usage since 2002, when I bought it as a pair to my Nikon N80, a film camera, for my college photography class.
The breakdown of Camera:Lens Combinations is:
While my D850 is more or less a replacement for my D800, in November and December, I did find myself using the D850 in the very low light conditions where I would previously have used my D750. I think the results for 2019 will be interesting.
The Good Stuff – New Stuff
As mentioned above, in 2018, I was finally able to acquire a Nikon D850. Due to the release of the Z-series, this may be my last Digital SLR, but time will tell.
The Good Stuff – Travels
In 2018, I only had 2 trips. The first was a long weekend to Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival, something I hope to do in 2019 as well. The second was a week long trip to Utah for the Milky Way. This trip was somewhat of a bust, but it did result in one of my favorite trips of 2018 and one where I learned a lot about lightning photography. I plan on going back to Utah in 2020 to try again. My trip was with Enlighten Photography ( https://www.zion-photography.com/ ) out of Zion National Park, a company I highly recommend, and a company I will be using in the future.
The Bad Stuff
Knock on wood, there was nothing I would consider the ‘bad stuff’ in 2018. I did get somewhat unlucky in Utah – in that I did not get my target images – but I still got some phenomenal images and the trip was worth doing.
I did not, however, accomplish my 2018 goal of getting great video produced. I also was unable to make progress in making photography a side job.
As of now, my plans for 2019 are this:
2 Trips – Cherry Blossoms in DC in March-April timeframe. Faroe Islands in September timeframe.
My 2019 goals are: Generate income from photography that pays for the trips, and learn how to better produce video because video seems to be important.
My 2019 stretch goals are: Work with a corporate sponsor to showcase their gear at an amazing place. I managed this image, but Eddie Bauer (maker of my jacket, I love this jacket) did not reply – https://www.instagram.com/p/BlZhrP5h3oA/ .
In what I hope to make an annual thing, I’d like to use this post to look back over 2017. The travels, what cameras/lenses I favored, and what my favorite images of the year are. Here we go, starting with the most straight forward items.
The Technical Stuff
In 2017, I created 21,446 photos and 268 videos. This makes 2017 my second most prolific year of photography, after only 2016. It was only slightly above 2011, which is now in 3rd place.
2017, like 2016, was dominated by a single trip – in this case, my trip to Greenland. This trip was responsible for 13,298 of the photos and videos. 2017 was otherwise a very low-photo year. My lowest since 2012, when I last moved across the country.
For cameras per year, it is clear, I favored the D750 over the D800, which is the second year in a row.
It really wasn’t even close. I think the weight of the camera, combined with the high burst rate really led me to favor this camera. I also like to use this camera for night time time-lapse/star trails, which artificially inflates the camera usage – 1000 photos taken may only result in 1 final image.
The Leica is the only camera on the list that I do not own. I had the chance to use it for an afternoon, which was a ton of fun.
My favorite lens for 2017 was the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, followed closely by the Nikon 24-120 f/4. It actually surprises me that the 70-200 is so high up on this list. This is due to my Greenland trip where I heavily favored this lens. The Greenland trip was responsible for 5481 of the 6984 photos taken with this lens in 2017.
I know that simply a large number of images doesn’t equate to a large number of images you like. A large number of images only means you consume a lot of space on external disk drives, which 2017 certainly did. 2017 consumed 814 GiB, which is certainly a record for me.
The breakdown of Camera:Lens combinations is:
Originally I was going to put my favorite images of 2017 in this space, but I’ve decided to hold that for a new post in the next week or so. Knowing me, it will take longer, but we shall see.
The Good Stuff – New Stuff
2017 was a small year for purchases. I purchased a new camera bag for international travel and a new travel laptop.
The Good Stuff – Travels
My trip to Greenland was by far the largest excursion of 2017. Other than this trip, I had a weekend in Utah; some day trips in and around Seattle; and some visits to family that allowed me to take some photos.
The Bad Stuff – Repairs and Damage
I hope this section doesn’t have large entries every year. But this year has a frustrating entry.
This year, my D750 was subject to a recall on the shutter. When I received the camera back after the first repair, there were issues with the reassembly of the camera. It had to go back in to be reassembled properly. I was lucky, as the camera nearly didn’t make it back to me for my Greenland trip. But, I am also thankful to Nikon who went out of their way to ensure that happened. I am also quite thankful that my D750 has a brand new shutter. While my D750 has taken nearly 30,000 photos, the shutter only has around 6900. The D750 will likely continue to be in use for 3-6 more years.
Outside of this, my gear experienced nothing more than normal wear and tear.
Let’s now look at my plans for this current year.
Due to job-related reasons, I’ve relocated from the PNW to Pennsylvania. But I’ve found a nice place near my new job and not too far from the outdoors. So I’ll be photographing a new area of the country with new parks and things to explore. I’ll also be visiting the Atlantic Ocean, which is fun.
In 2018 I hope to have a few more business-oriented aspects to my photography. Until now, it has been mostly for fun. In this new year, I hope to pursue tasks which offset the cost of my camera gear and travels. More details as they become available and I can actually make them happen.
I’m also testing the water with video and learning the basics of producing a video. I have an idea that I hope to launch in 2018.
The inspiration for this post comes from my father. In a recent conversation, my father said that he would never visit Australia, simply because he never wanted another 15 hour flight. I showed him how you can get to Australia without any flight over 8 hours.
The secret for USA to Australia and New Zealand? Hawaii. From anywhere in the USA, you can get a ~6 hour flight to the West Coast (LA, San Fran, Seattle, etc), where it is a ~6 hour flight to Honolulu (HNL) Hawaii. Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) or Sydney, Australia (SYD) are a relatively inexpensive 7-8 hr flight from HNL. Or if you’d prefer, Denver (DEN) to Honolulu (HNL) is about 8 hours.
Alternatively, HNL to Japan’s Tokyo Narita (NRT) is about 8 hours as well. Although this is probably not worth the effort, as NYC (JFK) to NRT is about 12 hours and Seattle (SEA) to NRT is about 10 hours.
On the other side of things, a person living in Sydney Australia can get to Europe without any flight over 8 hours. This person would go SYD to HNL (many airlines, including QANTAS, Jet Star, Hawaiian), HNL to SEA (Hawaiian or Alaskan), SEA to KEF (Keflavik, Iceland on Icelandair), then finally KEF to anywhere in Europe.
This tip likely works best for Americans. Due to flight schedules, there may be a 24-48 hour layover in Hawaii, which is such a terrible thing. I am aware that most non-Americans do not like doing international transfers through the USA. But no matter who you are, it is an option. And if you do not like the long haul flights, this is an option to avoid them for a large portion of the world.
I recently traveled on American Airlines and I discovered something interesting.
I live in Seattle, and as a result, I have a Frequent Flyer card for Alaska Airlines. Alaska and American have a new partnership.
As a result of this partnership, having an Alaska Airlines MVP number, grants you early boarding on American Airlines. I have the base status on Alaska, but, I was still able to board the plane before about half of the rest of the plane. American boarded their higher tier frequent flyer, high tier people in the OneWorld frequent flyer plans, and First/Business class before me, but I boarded before the people who purchased regular tickets, with the AAdvantage ‘Gold’ status members or OneWorld ‘Ruby’ status members. See here – https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/boarding-process.jsp
So, if you are traveling in coach, do not otherwise have any airline status, do not intend to build miles on American or OneWorld airlines, and are not flying in business/first, you can sign up for the Alaska MVP program and board before most people. It doesn’t cost anything, and it does not even require you to have ever flown on Alaska Airlines.
I was recently fortunate enough to be able to travel down the Colorado river and photograph the Grand Canyon.
One of the lunch stops on this trip was at Matkatamiba Canyon, which is at mile 148, just before the Matkatamiba Rapids. Our goal was to make it up to one of the waterfalls in the slot canyon and photograph it. Due to how this canyon winds around, it can support a lot of photographers at once at most locations.
Upon arrival, we found the entranceway had deeper water than there was in previous years.
This was not off to a good start. We had to cross a neck deep path with camera gear. While I may have been able to make it, some of the shorter members of the group would not, or at least their camera gear would not.
The solution was to use some of the folding tables as a bridge.
Some of the other people in the group decided to climb the rocks and make it over. Being taller, I took the option of holding my camera gear over my head and wading through the creek.
After passing through this creek, there were two waterfalls to climb. While this first one doesn’t look like much, the right side was extremely slippery, and, at least two people fell. One person managed to have their camera call into the water, but, it was an older Canon 1D series, so it was fine after it dried out a bit.
After this waterfall, there was a chest deep section, followed by a waist deep section, followed by another waterfall to climb. I do not have any pictures of this last waterfall, because there were a bunch of people trying to photograph it, and I wanted to get out of their frames as fast as possible.
At this last waterfall, the slot canyon narrows greatly. I was able to take a quick stop about 1/3rd of the way up to take this photo. There was a small pool here where I could take a small break from the climb.
I was now at a point where only a handful of people would try to venture. Once I got to the top of the stream, I took a look around the corner.
This looked quite nice, and very well could have been my shot. I decided to set up and take a few shots while deciding how much further I wanted to go.
As I was debating whether to continue up or turn back, some other members of my group showed up. One of them climbed up and let us know we were about as far as you could go. I decided if I was almost there, I might as well go to the top. So I did.
About the time I got to the top, a few people were ready to leave. The guides then showed up, having taken a goat trail to get there. They helped a few members of my group get out and head up the trail. A few members of my group decided to start to venture back down the creek. I then had it all to myself.
Since I had all of my camera gear, and a great little spot all to myself, I decided not to waste it, and, carefully set up my camera. At the bottom of the area, there is place to put bags down and keep them mostly dry. Here, there was no such spot.
The pink duct tape on the camera serves a few purposes. #1 – Identification – by the first day, everyone knew that Pink Duct Tape was mine. #2 – Dust Protection – the Grand Canyon has very fine dust that gets everywhere. The duct tape helped keep this dust out of the sensitive parts of the camera. #3 – Pink = Professional. My other camera was marked with Star Wars Duct Tape, so I could tell them apart at a distance.
And here, after all of that story, is the final image. It only took about an hour in Photoshop to get to this point.
I recently returned from California on a photo trip.
One of the stops was at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forrest, near Bishop, CA, where I captured this 30 second exposure.
To get this photo, I set up my camera while there was still light from the sun. Then captured a few test shots to see how the framing was, locked the tripod down and ate my dinner.
This is one of the test shots for framing. It is also a 30 second exposure.
Getting the Milky Way next to the tree was due to being prepared. I use an app called Star Walk on my iPhone. There are others, but this is the one I use. Since the app doesn’t need a data connection, only location info, it was able to tell me where the Milky Way was before the sun went down. I then both guessed and advanced the clock on the app to see about where the Milky Way would be in an hour after it was dark. This gave me enough information to line up the frame to get the capture I wanted.
I like the results. The first image only has about 20 seconds of edits in LightRoom, and could use quite a bit more. There is a lot of junk in the frame from other trees in the area. Normally, I would climb the hill to get the right perspective, but, the hill was made of loose shale rock and it was raining. It was not safe enough to take the risk to avoid 20-30 minutes in Photoshop.
So anyways, here is a Work In Progress from a recent trip. I’ll probably have the photos from the trip finished in a few months.