Archive for the Travel Category

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: Light, Location & Lenses

Posted in Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, better my photography, Birds, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, Golden Pavillion, HDR, how to photography, Indochina, Japan, Kinkakuji, Kyoto, Laos, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Light, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Sigma, Ta Prohm, Tamron, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2013 by mmphototours

Where do I go to get the best shot of…?  When do I go to get that shot?  These questions have troubled travelers and photographers for years.  Travel photography is more available and affordable than ever.

Great travel photography boils down to three things: Light, Location and Lenses.  In the following short paragraphs I will share with you the prime basics I have learned over the last 30 years of travel photography.  Since the early 1980’s I have traveled to over 160 countries—yes, there are that many and still more to go!

Storm clouds over Bayon at sunset web ready

Light.  Without it GREAT photography is difficult—even with the high ISO digital cameras of today.  Truly excellent photography begins AND ends with light and how you use, protect, manipulate and ultimately capture light.

Kinkaku-ji

Just as important as the primal light mother-nature provides is the light of your own imagination and eye.  The art of seeing light is a must for being able to visualize exactly how you want to capture the light you have to work with.

The key with travel photography, as with most other photography, is how you put yourself into position to capture the best light for the location you are working with.  This can vary depending on the location.

How do we combat or work with light?  Rise before the sun, and most people, to be out, set-up and ready to release the shutter on location before even the bell tower mice of Notre Dame are awake.  The best light of any day and any season is often the morning light.  The soft rays create hues and angles which even the novice can make look extraordinary.  In my opinion morning light is the most interesting and clean light of the day.  Of course, the often vibrant rays of the evening are inviting and awesome as well.

As always, before you begin clicking away, consider how the available light, weather, as well as lens selection and camera position will impact your shot.  Take some time to walk around your subject, if possible, while considering all of these elements. Take your time and look through the viewfinder (or even LCD screen) and be open to the unusual and the unexpected.

Location.  The world is such that many people have traveled and seen much more than even 20 years ago.  The classic sights—The Eiffel Tower, The Leaning Tower of Pisa or even a Bull Elk in Yellowstone National Park have been shot by MILLIONS of photographers.  Each of them has a killer shot of the site—right?  However, many travelers do not go back to a location to ever shoot it again.  Hitting sights in each of the four seasons brings them to life.  If at all possible return to favorite locations and shoot often—the Light is NEVER the same and your mood and imagination may bring you new discoveries.  Spending time watching locals interact and visit sites can add a layer of creativity and vision to how you approach and shoot it.  Find out as much as you can about your destination before you start traveling.  Use the Internet, travel books, maps and the phone to find out details about potential shooting locations and weather.  When you arrive on location take some time to look at post cards of the area to get ideas and locations.  If the schedule allows, scout a location to determine the best camera position for the next day—these are all things we do and provide in advance on a photo tour!  Putting yourself in the right place at the right time is a must to excellent travel photography.

Elephants

Lenses.  Do NOT skimp on glass.  I would rather have a basic (read entry level) DSLR and GREAT glass than a fully-loaded pro DSLR with inferior glass.  Yes, we recognize that there is a lot of good glass out there.  Every maker has raised the quality level to deal with the specific needs of digital photography.  The key here is to take the time, effort and spend the money you can afford for the system AND desired results you want.  Our Imagination, Light and Lens (ILL) make SICK (read awesome) pictures!  When the three L-elements come together with our imagination the possibilities are endless and the creativity and beauty are as magnificent as the love of our life.

Majestic Bald Eagle

What are the answers to the above questions?  Get out and travel.  Take your camera and shoot.  When we couple travel & photography the world takes on new meanings and adventures.  The people, places and sights that are travel photography open our eyes and fill us with an appreciation for the privilege we have to document the Light & Location through the Lens, of not only the camera, but our minds and hearts.  As we say at M&M, “You don’t just take a photograph, you experience it!”

Floating Village Family Homestead Back Door View- Cambodia

Contact me directly at: mikeg@mmphototours.com with questions about our tours, general travel questions, and of course anything photography related.  Thanks for all the support.

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Cambodia: Ancient Temples, Floating Villages

Posted in 1, Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ankor Thom, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Fashion Photography, Filters, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, HDR, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Indochina, Laos, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Monks, National Geographic, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, rice paddies, Ron Wyatt, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, Seoul, Sigma, street food, Ta Prohm, Tamron, Terraced rice paddies, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens on October 25, 2013 by mmphototours

As we move to Cambodia, the group gets immediately immersed in the life of the local folk on the floating villages of Tonle Sap.  These hearty people have built their entire existence around fishing from the lake.  Their homes either float or are built on stilts and they even keep a supply of regular farm livestock for dietary variety in floating pens as well.  Here are a few examples of the daily activity on the lake.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

One of our guests Carolyn gave each child a small ring as a gift and it helped us get  wide smiles that were great to photograph.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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   Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

On the tour, we cover the floating village experience in two days because our guests love it so much.  There is so much to shoot and the lake is very large so we visit several locations to get the best shots.

These two children were out practicing their seamanship near the shore of the lake at their home.  They become comfortable with water life from a very young age and quickly become expert at catching fish or shrimp and drying it for long-term storage.  Cooking is done on small fires inside metal containers inside the house.  They want smoke from the fire to fill the house because the smoke treats the thatch walls and roof so bugs will not eat it or live in it.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

 Another awesome part of Cambodia that we visit is the temples at the Angkor complex.  These shots are from Angkor Wat.  The first one was an in-camera HDR shot on a Canon 5D MKIII.   The results are truly amazing.  The shot needs no post processing and looks this good.  Give yours a try if you can.

155B3594Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This costume is prevalent in Thailand and Cambodia because of their similar heritage.  It was shot in low light so the ISO needed to be higher to capture a clear image but as you can see the detail in the shot is still good.  This was a great place for our guests to practice their low light skills and have an excellent meal too.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This man was in charge of bailing while his group rode in to town from their floating village.  They make occasional trips like these to get supplies and to buy livestock.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

At Ta Prohm, old trees have overgrown much of the temple site.  It makes for fantastic pictures.  Every year, this area has become more commercial and more boardwalks are erected.  If you want to see this stunning area in it’s original state, you should make the journey as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the more that will be “fixed” for tourists and the less photogenic it will be.  This is one reason we offer this trip every year and encourage others to go soon.

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Many people have seen Monks in this region.  How many have seen female monks though?  We took our guests to this village where predominantly female monks gathered for their morning meal.  It’s a unique shooting opportunity for all our guests.   These female monks wear white gowns rather than the traditional saffron color wraps common to male monks.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This man was working to restore a part of the female monks village that was damaged.  He liked seeing the camera display with his picture on it and he posed for more pictures.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,  Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We visited a local market where folks can buy anything from clothing to fresh produce to cooked meals.  One of our guests Hal tried the fried grasshopper and said it was good.  “Like buttered popcorn” he said.  You can get great photos when you interact with the locals doing their daily work.  Here are some shots of the market.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Do any of you who have gone with M&M Photo tours on this trip recognize this face?  Hint: local lady, eats grasshoppers with us, speaks fantastic English, fits in a suitcase… She’s on Facebook if you want to look.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Making noodles at the market.  Great skill too.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This trip is all highlights.  As you can see from this and the previous 3 posts there are more photo opportunities per minute than just about anywhere in the world.  There is so much to shoot that some guests have chosen to do the trip twice just to get the great shots they were missing while getting a great shot.  You almost need 360 degree lenses to get it all.  On average, guests shoot at least 10,000 shots on the trip and most shoot many more.  Space is limited because of its popularity but remember that we also offer private tours.  If you are longing to see Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, give us a call and whether on a private group or a regular tour, we will make it happen!

Good Morning Vietnam

Posted in 1, Angkor Thom, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, caves, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, H'Mong, HDR, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Hunt's Photo & Video, Indochina, Laos, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Monks, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, rice paddies, Ron Wyatt, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, Seoul, Ta Prohm, Terra Cotta, Terraced rice paddies, Travel, Travel Photography, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens on October 20, 2013 by mmphototours

After an awesome shoot in Laos, our group moved to Vietnam to continue our frame-making joyous journey.  This land is full of great places to shoot including terraced rice paddies, hill tribe folk, Ha Long Bay, and the Tay Ninh region.  But this first shot comes from a tribe near Sapa.  These ornate headdresses confirm tribal status and make for some great photos

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/320, f/4, ISO 400, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The Sapa region is one of the unspoiled treasures in Vietnam.  Only a few options to get there but the journey is a must if you want to see village life and capture it for yourself.  This Lady was instructing her grand-daughter when we arrived.  She gave us a quick tour of her place and was very proud of her new sewing machine.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/500, f/4.5, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

You have heard of bringing home the bacon?  This is how you bring home the poultry… on your scooter!  These birds are still alive, bought at market, then taken home to the family farm.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/320, f/9, ISO 200, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This family was making corn wine in a giant indoor still.  Grandma was in charge of the kitchen and supervised the whole operation.  Children and grand children all do their part.  No sampling for our group, but the family did offer.  Great folk who are generous to even the strangest of strangers.  It was dark in here, so it was great to have a fast and reliable lens to get this photo.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/80, f/4, ISO 2000, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

In Saigon while shooting some local pagodas, we came across this couple on their wedding day.  Their own local photographer was struggling so we decided to help them make some good memories.  We made sure the bride and groom got copies of these pictures for their happy day.  That makes two wedding shoots in one trip!  We also shot a funeral during our time here.  Always make the most of your opportunities and don’t be afraid to try these activities even if they are new to you.  It builds your photo skills and makes the locals happy too.

155B1691Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/100, f/22, ISO 1600, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

 While we were in Saigon, proceedings were underway for the funeral of a Great Vietnamese general and dignitaries from all over came to pay their respects.  This man was happy to show his pride in service

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/640, f/4.5, ISO 400, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

In Hanoi, (AKA Scooter City) you take your life into your own hands every time you enter the street.  Scooters are everywhere and no one obeys the traffic laws.  This officer was mad at our pedal taxi driver for trying to use a closed street.  It was a scary ride, but well worth the photos.  Be sure to roll some video if you take this ride.  it will be a guaranteed hit at your photo party later.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 640, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This photo was taken with a long exposure at Sward Lake in Hanoi.  A tripod was used to be sure to make the image steady and sharp.  When you travel, always take along a Benro Travel Angel or similar tripod that is lightweight and quick to set up.  It needs to fit on the side of your bag and in the overhead storage of the plane too.  The travel angel also converts to a monopod as well.  Fun shooting at night, but bring good equipment when you go.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/3, f/2.8, ISO 200, Lexar Digital Film, Clik Elite Pro Express, Benro Travel Angel convertible travel tripod

No trip to Vietnam is complete without seeing the Cao Dai temple.  You will never find a better place that begs photography and has culture saturated in every image.  This ceremony is open to the public (with limits).  The colors are fantastic and the sounds are awesome as well.  Video and stills are both a must here.  These shots also make great black and white images or sepia toned frames.  It is well worth the drive from Saigon.  If you do HDR (High Dynamic Range) at all, you will want to try some here.  The outside pic is “in-camera” HDR.  Also, bring a wide lens so you don’t miss the edges since the building is very large and long.

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, 1/125, f/4, ISO 800, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, 1/80, f/4.5, ISO 800, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 70mm, 1/320, f/16, ISO 200, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This is a great shot on the way to Ha Long Bay.  There are many fields and many workers to photograph.  Don’t forget to do as our guest pro Ron Wyatt says and “zoom with your feet”.  Most folk roll up in a car and snap one out the window.  Those lazy people didn’t get this shot.  You need to interact with the locals and they are happy to see what you are doing just as you see what they are doing.  Show them the images and they may even make a suggestion for a better picture.  Many have good English skills too.  Regardless, make an effort.  The two best things a photographer can do is go to the image (don’t shoot from afar) and to be patient for the right image (watch cars, background, subject blinking, etc.)

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/640, f/4, ISO 200, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This is the top of our boat in Ha Long Bay.  We stayed overnight on the boat and had private meals catered.  You can too!  Join us early for this trip though.  It always fills up fast because it is a true gem.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/250, f/10, ISO 200, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This is more Ha Long Bay.  The view is from a cave entrance that we visit.  Many of these mountain islands have monkeys on them as well and can make great wildlife shots.  The cave is huge and well worth the 225 stairs to visit.

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, 1/60, f/5.6, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This guy was winning but likely due to his full concentration.  They did not even seem to notice four of us shooting them.  Some of the bystanders were coaching us for shots and coaching the players for a win.  Great culture shots of daily live in rural Vietnam.  This village has pottery makers, a clay water pipe business and several reburial casket makers.  Of course agriculture is a strong influence and some even deal in exotic meats.  These photos tell the story.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/50, f/5.6, ISO 640, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/200, f/6.3, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/120, f/4, ISO 640,  Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/640, f/4, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Villages also offer the opportunity to visit the local schools and see how the children learn.  This girl was the obvious champion in this game with equipment made from bicycle inner tubes cut to strips and tied together.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/320, f/13, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/320, f/13, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

From here, we take a short flight to Cambodia to see the famed Angkor complex and the floating villages of Siem Reap.  Stay tuned to see how the tour ends with a bang in this ancient wonderland.  Take extra memory cards on this part of the trip. You won’t want to miss out an any of these shots. The weather is hot, but the photography is even hotter!

Exploring Laos

Posted in Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ankor Thom, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Fashion Photography, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, H'Mong, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Hunt's Photo & Video, Indochina, Laos, learn photography, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, rice paddies, Ron Wyatt, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, Seoul, Sigma, Ta Prohm, Tamron, Terraced rice paddies, Travel, Travel Photography, Unique Photo, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens on October 11, 2013 by mmphototours

After meeting our guests and flying to Laos, we proceeded to take Luang Prabang  by photo storm.  The hotel was great, the food was excellent and the friendships will last a lifetime.  Below is a photo of the main source of transportation.  These friendly drivers will get you to the monks and back to your hotel with no effort or planning and with little cost.  Great entrepreneurs as well as some organized companies will show you this city of monks and temples.

 

 

Here is a rare sight… A monk smiling.  The picture below is from the sunrise procession of monks doing their alms.  They live on only what is given to them  and each day they gather food in their bowls that is given to them by the local villagers.  Some of our group including Dan P. joined in the giving as hundreds of monks passed by on their way to their temple.  This is truly a highlight of the trip.

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Later, these same monks gather to pray, to eat, and to learn.  We were able to get an exclusive look at this part of their day when they invited us to photograph this normally private time.  Some even remembered M&M from previous years and were happy to see us again.

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This is a shot of an elderly lady in a small village right on the Mekong river.  She was anxious to see our photos so we reviewed an entire memory card full of images.  She explained as best she could her relationship to each one we showed her and her joy at seeing them was rewarding for both of us.

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This image was from the same village.  Earlier, one of our guests Carolyn had been teaching all of the village kids some English and giving them a fun ring to wear.  This mother appreciated her efforts and rewarded us with great photo opportunity.  Great people and great time shooting as well.

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Does this look like where you ate lunch?  It does to me.  It’s on the Mekong as well near the China border.  We had fine linens and china to match the exquisite food prepared by the small restaurant next to these boats.  Our group loved the meal.

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Again we visit the monk procession early in the morning so we can be sure to get great shots.  Here are two more that show the pageantry and solemnity of the occasion.   You have to be there to get the full effect, but most who go end up shooting video as well on this just to be sure not to miss anything.

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These children waited for the monks to return so they could offer their alms with their mother and grandmother.  This is a way of life for them and it begins at sunrise every day.

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While photographing at one of the most beautiful waterfalls and reflecting pools in the world, we came across a group of folks experiencing the mineral-rich waters.  The woman below was from Argentina and was on vacation with her boyfriend and 2 other couples.  When she saw a group of photographers and one commented she should be a model, she decided to give it a go.  Our waterfall shoot became a model shoot and we got great images.  Of course the boyfriend wanted copies and so did she.  Always take the photo opportunities that are presented to you.  This was unexpected, but ended up being great photography.

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We continue on next to Vietnam and see the great Ha Long Bay, Hanoi, Sapa, and many other gems in this fascinating country.  Stay tuned for the next post.  As always, we will show you what we are doing, and what you will be seeing when you join us next year.  This trip usually fills, so let us know soon if you want us to hold a spot for you.

Seoul Stop Before Indochina Tour

Posted in Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ankor Thom, Art, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Great Buddha, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Hunt's Photo & Video, Indochina, Laos, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, Seoul, Sigma, Ta Prohm, Travel, Travel Photography, Vietnam, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags on October 5, 2013 by mmphototours

155B3846Seoul is open for business!

One of the great benefits from foreign travel is the occasional opportunity to make good use of a long layover.  Today on our way to our Indochina trip, We had a 12 hour layover in Incheon Korea so we decided to take advantage of our time and tour around Seoul while we waited for our flight to resume to Bangkok.  The street photography was amazing and we got some great images so we are sharing a few unedited JPEGs to give you an idea what we are seeing here… Come Visit!

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This is the Gyeonbokgung Palace in Seoul.  We were able to tour the grounds and get some great images.  The next two are from the same palace.  Bet you can’t see this in Brooklyn! 155B3729

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Below is a local Buddhist  temple grounds.  We were able to visit during a prayer session so we have images of the locals in attendance and the well-kept grounds too..155B3761

See if you can spot Mike Gulbraa poking in one of the doors.  Yep, same Columbia shirt you saw him in 2 years ago.  He said he washed it.  Fantastic color and weather for photos. 155B3776

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This is a strange shaped cigarette butt collector.  Very decorative and photogenic.

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From here we are off to Indochina so stay tuned for a few posts as we progress on the trip.  Wish you were here.  This is stunning as always!

Photo Tour or go on your own?

Posted in B&H Photo, better my photography, BlackRapid, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, HDR, how to photography, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, Marketing, Naional Park Photo Workshops, National Park Photo Workshops, National Parks, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, wide-angle, wide-angle lens, Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2013 by mmphototours

Posta de Sol & mirror lake shot

We get questions from folks all the time about our tours and why a photo tour is better/easier/more complete than non-photo tours.  Our reply is usually based on how they answer a few questions.

1) We hear from folks that they went on a tour but were always being rushed to get back to the bus.  When we ask which photo tour they on and with whom their reply is always – ‘Oh, no I/we went on a regular tour hoping we’d have plenty of time to shoot what we wanted but we were always being rushed and having people upset with us for holding up the group.’

2)  Our follow-up question is usually “So you left the hotel every day after breakfast and were eating dinner as the sun was setting?”  To which we get the reply ‘Yes, usually left between 8 and 9 AM and were stopping for dinner between 6 and 7 PM.’

3) Our last question is usually “So all you saw was the set big sites and didn’t take/have time to get in touch with the locals?”  To which we hear in reply ‘Sure, we saw all the classic sites in mid-day light but had no significant time to explore on our own or connect with the locals.  It wasn’t good for photography at all.’

We also hear from another group that likes to plan on their own because they “…have traveled a lot and can use the web and guide books to make arrangements for hotels, meals, and guides.”

Either method is fine and may work and help you capture some memorable images during your trip.  If you sincerely want to visit a location/country for the photography there are several reasons why you should join a photo tour.  Namely,

A) Have you built the relationships with local guides, hotels, and other services/people who will help you come home with images that most people do not capture?  M&M has leveraged its 30+ years of global travel experience and developed relationships in every country we offer a tour to give you an awesome photographic experience AND to come home with the images you want.  We leave nothing to chance except the free time we give you to explore and find hidden gems.

B) How much time do you have for research – if research is needed?  Unless you have been to 162 countries (many of them more than 20+ times each) you will need to spend a significant amount of time learning about your location and the best sites, times, season, etc. to get the shots you want.  M&M already has this extensive knowledge/database to get you where you need to be, when you need to be there, to get the shots you’ve dreamed about.  Sign up and leave the planning and worry to us.  We spend over 200 hours planning/scheduling every tour we offer EACH year.

C) How well do you tolerate/deal with the unexpected?  If you plan a tour on your own it better be high.  Traveling with M&M on a photo tour alleviates the unexpected as our air/ground vendors have our wishes dialed in and work closely with a huge support team to make sure things go well AND we always have a Plan B and Plan C  in the unlikely event something pops up.

D) Do you know the best time/season to visit a specific location/site to get the shot you want?  M&M has our trips dialed in and our ground support teams know what our guests expect and want in their photography.  We know when the rainy season ends and the dry season starts.  We know when/where the key local festivals are.  We know when and where the best markets are.  We know the back roads and hidden gems that will separate your images from others that have visited the same region.

E) When you travel alone or with a friend you are responsible for everything – added costs, arrangements for early breakfast/late dinner, drivers as needed, local guides, etc.  M&M takes care of everything for you.  All you have to do is show up and have your gear ready to capture the images you’ve always dreamed about.  OK, you may have to worry about having a soda or beer with dinner.

The bottom line is that our time is the most overlooked factor when actually executing a trip.  We can plan all we want on our own but unless we’ve “been there done that” we will have most likely missed something and spend hours fixing/re-planning the trip on the fly.  On the road our time and the exact execution of that time is the most precious item we have and need to capture the images we dream about.

Do not leave your photo tour to chance.  M&M trips are precisely planned and smoothly executed at every juncture.  Fewer hours spent fixing things means more hours making frames, memories, friends, and ensures that you’ll arrive home safe with many more award-winning images.  Traveling with like-minded people (photographers) adds a dimension to a trip that cannot be enjoyed with others.  Keep in mind that MOST M&M tours are all-inclusive taking the unknown out of the equation.  Lastly, you will have more in-field camera time when traveling with us than not.

We look forward to having you join us soon.  At M&M “You don’t just take a photograph, you experience it.”

Mesa Arch2

Introduction to Cambodia

Posted in Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ankor Thom, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, how to photography, Indochina, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, Light, Monks, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Ta Prohm, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by mmphototours

Cambodia Map

One of our favorite places to visit on earth is Cambodia.  The people are so kind, the food delicious, the photography and history inspiring, and the ease and cost of travel in country are affordable to many.  We believe Cambodia is an under-appreciated photography and tourist destination and we work hard to expose as many people as possible to what the country has to offer.

Angkor Complex B&W Cambodia1

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/90, f/4, ISO 500, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Let us share a bit about Cambodia that will hopefully help you understand her history and plan to enjoy a visit.  Most Cambodians consider themselves Khmers, descendants of the Angkor Empire that extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its peak between the 10th and 13th centuries.  Attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day Vietnam) weakened the empire, ushering in a long period of decline.  The king placed the country under French protection in 1863 and it became part of French Indochina in 1887.  Following the Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia gained full independence from France in 1953.  In April 1975, after a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh and evacuated all cities and towns.  At least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, forced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot.  A December 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and began a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war.  UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy under a coalition government.  Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability.  The remaining elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999.  Some of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders have been tried or are awaiting trial for crimes against humanity by a hybrid UN-Cambodian tribunal supported by international assistance. In October 2004, King Norodom SIHANOUK abdicated the throne and his son, Prince Norodom SIHAMONI, was selected to succeed him.  Local elections were held in Cambodia in April 2007, with little of the pre-election violence that preceded prior elections. National elections in July 2008 were relatively peaceful.  Cambodia is a multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

Bayon2

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/15, f/8, ISO 100, Tiffen Grad ND, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Cambodians consist of 90% Khmer, 5% Vietnamese, 1% Chinese, and 4% other.  Religiously they are 96.4% Buddhist (the official State religion), 2.1% Muslim, 1.3% other religions, and 0.2% are unspecified.

Angkor Complex Monks Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 28mm, 1/60, f/4, ISO 2000, Tiffen Grad ND, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Since 2004, garments, construction, agriculture, and tourism have driven Cambodia’s growth. GDP climbed more than 6% per year between 2010 and 2012.  The 2012 per capita GDP for Cambodia was $2,400 – the 2012 USA GDP was $49,800. The garment industry currently employs more than 335,000 people and accounts for more than 75% of Cambodia’s total exports.  In 2005, oil deposits were found beneath Cambodia’s territorial waters, representing a potential revenue stream for the government, if commercial extraction becomes feasible.  Mining also is attracting some investor interest and the government has touted opportunities for mining bauxite, gold, iron and gems.  The tourism industry has continued to grow rapidly with foreign arrivals exceeding 2 million per year since 2007.  However, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia and long-term economic development remains a daunting challenge, inhibited by corruption, limited educational opportunities, high income inequality, and poor job prospects.  Approximately 4 million people live on less than $1.25 per day and 37% of Cambodian children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. More than 50% of the population is less than 25 years old.  Much of the population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the countryside, which also lacks basic infrastructure.  The Cambodian government is working with bilateral and multilateral donors, including the World Bank and IMF, to address the country’s many pressing needs; more than 50% of the government budget comes from donor assistance.

Floating Village Family Homestead Back Door View- Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/60, f/6.7, ISO 250, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

The major economic challenge for Cambodia over the next decade will be fashioning an economic environment in which the private sector can create enough jobs to handle Cambodia’s demographic imbalance.

Learning the trade Floating Villages Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 70-200 OS @ 70mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 2000, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Each visit we make it is pleasing for us to see progress being made for the people of Cambodia.  International travelers from all over the world visit key sites and contribute to the local economies.  Unfortunately, large portions of revenues from the prized Angkor complex, one of the highest grossing tourist sites in the country, are sent to Vietnam as payment for their help in repelling the Khmer Rouge – an example of the saying that “Freedom is not free.”  Even with that we see Cambodia’s future as bright and on the rise.

Colorful homestead reflections Floating Villages Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 70-200 OS @ 147mm, 1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 800, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

We hope you’ll join us for our October 2013 visit to Cambodia.