Archive for photo tips

Sigma 150-600 C lens test in Tanzania

Posted in 1, Africa, African Safari, Benro, better my photography, Birding, Birds, BlackRapid, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, elephants, how to photography, Induro, Kaenon, Lake Manyara, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, lions, Marketing, Ngorongoro Crater, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Serengeti, Sigma, Tanzania, Tarangire NP, Travel, Travel Photography, warthog, waterbucks, zebra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2016 by mmphototours
_E7A8391 Elephant walk web ready.jpg

Young elephant crossing the river in Tarangire National Park

In June of 2016 Mike G had the chance to make a visit to Tanzania with family and friends where he spent several days testing the Sigma 150-600 C lens in three different Tanzanian National Parks – Tarangire, Ngorongoro, & Lake Manyara.

Bottom line – Mike G, who has used the Tamron 150-600 VC lens and Canon L series big glass on African safaris in the past, was very pleased with the lens and feels it is every bit the lens the Tamron is with possibly better stabilization and color reproduction and offers a better bang for your buck than the much more expensive Canon or Nikon options.

All of the following images were taken with a Canon 5D Mark III and the Sigma 150-600 C lens.

_E7A8312 Waterbuck family web ready

Waterbuck family checking surroundings

Elephant crossing the river in Tarangire NP

_E7A8396 Elephant vignette web ready

Elephant crossing the river Tarangire National Park

 

The first thing most people are going to notice with this lens is the price tag – much less than the Canon 100-400 II, Nikon 80-400 VR, Canon 200-400 w/ 1.4x, or any of the prime BIG glass lenses either Canon or Nikon offer.  And, you are gonna save size vs a few of the other options while not adding much bulk vs some of the slightly smaller options – Canon 100-400 II or even Nikon 80-400 VR.

High quality glass is vital to the optical quality of any image.  The quality Mike G observed in this test shows that the 150-600 C is an excellent lens with high quality workmanship coming out of the Sigma Aizuwakamatsu (where Mike actually lived for several months while a young man) factory in Japan.  The FLD & SLD glass elements help the lens achieve a high degree of clearer, sharper, greater clarity and excellent contrast across the focal range.  While not weather-sealed like its Big Brother the S version the lens should withstand most light weather situations but you’ll want some form of heavy weather protection should you venture out in heavy rain/snow.

Mike G finds the lens be very sharp at all focal lengths up till about 550mm – especially when stopped down to f/8.  Above 550mm stopping down to f/11 helps keep the center of images sharp and clean.

_E7A8184 Lilac Breasted Roller web ready

Lilac-Breasted Roller checking surroundings

The next thing you are going to notice is a wonderful range (150-600mm) which will allow you to fix this lens on your favorite camera body and shoot all day without changing lenses – which can be extremely convenient and save a lot of sensor cleaning while out on safari – or even shooting birds in the backyard or wildlife in Yellowstone National park.  With a minimum focusing distance of 110.2″ critters will have to be pretty close – 9.2′ or just a tad over 3 yards away to not focus.  If you are that close to any wildlife you had better be near small wildlife that cannot hurt you or in vehicle that can help protect you.  For sporting events – depending on the event – it can be the lens that reaches out and touches the action.

Some of you may ask – what about the min/max aperture range of the lens – f/5-6.3 – f/22 and capturing images in low light?  Not a concern if you are shooting with a relatively new body that handles noise/high ISO situations well.  Feel free to bump that ISO up to keep your shutter speed up if needed.  Plus, the Sigma Optical Stabilization, which includes an accelerometer for better panning results, is going to get gain you anywhere from 2 – 3 stops when handholding with good, solid technique.  So, go ahead and shoot away.

_E7A9186 Wildebeest rut B&W web ready

Wildebeest males battle during rut

_E7A8970 Lion gaze web ready

Male lion surveying Ngorongoro Crater surroundings

How about the auto focus performance you may ask?  Mike G found it to be very accurate, fast, and quiet.  The Sigma Hyper Sonic Motor is reliable and Mike G found it be a bit faster than the Tamron 150-600.  The lens does also come with a focus limiter switch which can be handy when subjects are more than 33+ feet away.

_E7A9288 Warthogs in wild flowers web ready

Warthog family lounging in the short grasses of Ngorongoro Crater

_E7A8377 Young elephant water-crossing web ready.jpg

Young elephants crossing the river in Tarangire National Park

Do we (Mike G) recommend this lens?  Yes.  This lens offers great image quality at an excellent price point.  The outstanding performance seen coupled with the savings makes this lens a viable option for even the most serious wildlife photographers.

_E7A8661 The horns web ready.jpg

Lounging gazelle

_E7A7889 Zebra face web ready.jpg

Zebra

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Croatia & Slovenia trip

Posted in better my photography, BlackRapid, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Croatia, Dalmatian Coast, Deb Sandidge, Deborah Sandidge, Dubrovnik, Europe, Filters, HDR, how to photography, Hunt's Photo & Video, Hvar, Julian Alps, Lake Bled, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Light, Ljubliana, Luka Esenko, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Plitvice Lakes, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Slovenia, Soca River, Soca River Valley, Split, Tamron, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, Unique Photo, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2014 by mmphototours

It seems like ages ago but the Croatia & Slovenia trip was one to remember.  We had an awesome group of M&M Photo Tours returnees and added a new guest/fan to the mix.  The trip went off without a hitch and the weather was awesome the entire trip.

We hosted our first female guest pro – Deborah Sandidge (http://www.deborahsandidge.com) – who was awesome to work with and showed us a few great techniques for long exposure images and was just an excellent person to travel with.

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 @ 55mm, f/11, ISO 200, 1/3, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filters, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 @ 55mm, f/11, ISO 200, 1/3, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filters, Clik Elite Pro Express

This trip takes to the best locations both countries have to offer and we experience a feel and flavor that is unique and special.  Our local guide for both countries is Luka Esenko (http://lukaesenko.com/about) who is an awesome photographer himself which adds to the group and locations we shoot – Luka knows his stuff.

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 24mm, f/11, 1/4, ISO 100, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen filters, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 24mm, f/11, 1/4, ISO 100, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen filters, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We travel from the beautiful coast of Croatia starting in Dubrovnik, then to Hvar, Split, Plitvice Lakes NP, and then head into Slovenia where we shoot Lake Bled, the Soca River Valley, & beautiful Ljubljana.  From the Dalmatian Coast to the awe-inspiring Julian Alps of Slovenia and all the gems in between make this trip a landscape photographers dream BUT also delivers for those who love culture, street photography, macro, and more.

For those who may be concerned about the past history of the locations – you have NOTHING to worry about.  The trip is safe, the people kind & helpful, the food is some of the best in Europe – awesome pizza and seafood which I love (MCG), the lodging is superb, the towns are clean and open, and the photography is simply awesome.

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 55mm, 1/20, f/22, ISO 100, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filters, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 55mm, 1/20, f/22, ISO 100, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filters, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 45mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 2000, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filter, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 45mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 2000, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filter, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L f/2.8 II USM @ 16mm, 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 800, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filter, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L f/2.8 II USM @ 16mm, 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 800, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filter, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 51mm, 1/400, f/4.5, ISO 2000, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filter, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 51mm, 1/400, f/4.5, ISO 2000, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filter, Clik Elite Pro Express

The overall beauty that awaits, the crisp clean light, the fresh clean air, the ease of access to locations, and our guest pro Deb Sandidge and local pro/guide Luka Esenko add so much to this trip that the value and photography are off the charts.  There is simply so much to shoot at every stop that you’ll have a hard time paring your images down for your camera club presentations that you’ll be asked to do once folks see your images.  It is that good!

The 2015 Croatia & Slovenia trip is scheduled for June 15-29, 2015 and is an all-inclusive trip – as are most M&M international tours.  There is still space available but will fill fast once we get past the holidays.

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 70mm, 1/1600, f/9, ISO 800, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filter, Cilk Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC @ 70mm, 1/1600, f/9, ISO 800, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Tiffen filter, Clik Elite Pro Express

Tuscany 2014

Posted in Baptistery Italy, Baptistery Pisa, BlackRapid, Brolio Castle, Canon, Chianti, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, David, Field of Miracles, Filters, Florence, Florence Bell Tower, Gelato, HDR, how to photography, Hunt's Photo & Video, Italy, Italy photography, Leaning Tower of Pisa, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Light, Meleto Castle, Michelangelo, Michelangelo's David, Montepulciano, Olive Oil, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, Photography in Tuscany, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pienza, Pisa, Pisa Baptistery, Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Duomo, Pisa Field of Miracles, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Radda in Chianti, Ron Wyatt, San Donato, Tamron, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, Tuscan foods, Tuscan villa, Tuscany, Val d'Orcia, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2014 by mmphototours

Our annual trek through Tuscany in May of each year is always enjoyable, relaxing, and filled with excellent photography opportunities.  Once again this year we set up residence at our favorite villa outside of Arezzo and explored Tuscany from there.  Our group was small which allowed us flexibility to take the time we needed/wanted at each location.

Our hosts at the villa - Mirella & Stefano

Our hosts at the villa – Mirella & Stefano

No trip to Italy – let alone Tuscany is complete without awesome meals and awesome people to share them with.  There were plenty of meals to share and the group made for great company.  We ate like kings, shot like kings, slept like kings, and overall just had a wonderful trip and many great experiences during our two weeks in Italy.

We like to give ourselves assignments on or before each trip.  This trip was about handheld HDR and really testing the lenses, Canon 5D Mark III, and seeing if the image stabilization of the lenses would give us the stops we need to forgo a tripod at times.  We were happy with the result BUT have determined yet again that a tripod is always a good idea.

A little low light, high ISO work - Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L @ 27mm, ISO 5000, 1/40, f/2.8, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media

A little low light, high ISO work – Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L @ 27mm, ISO 5000, 1/40, f/2.8, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Several of the guests enjoyed the wine while we all enjoyed everything about the trip.  One of our favorite things and parts of this trip is the stained-glass we get to see – here are a few of our favorites from an old church in Montepulciano:

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, f/4.5, ISO 500, 1/250, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, f/4.5, ISO 500, 1/250, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 640, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 640, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We ventured to so many different parts of Tuscany during this trip that it is difficult to express which part we like most – fact of the matter is that we love them all or we would not go.  Landscapes, people, architecture, and food are some of the reasons we visit Italy – we photograph them all.  The next several shots are some of our favorites from this year’s trip:

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/640, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Chapel on The Hill – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/640, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 33mm, 1/640, f/9, ISO 1000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Grove of Cypress Trees – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 33mm, 1/640, f/9, ISO 1000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 40mm, 1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Pitigliano – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 40mm, 1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 44mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Florence – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 44mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Pisa - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 24mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Film, Clik Elite Pro Express

Pisa – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 24mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Clik Elite Pro Express

San Antimo Abbey - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 200, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

San Antimo Abbey – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 200, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We also spend a few days in Rome and make a few stops outside of Tuscany while on this trip.  Here are a few of our favorites from those days in Orvieto and Rome:

The Orvieto Cathedral is my favorite in all of Italy - Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L @ 18mm, 1/1000, f/11, ISO 500, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

The Orvieto Cathedral is our favorite in all of Italy – Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L @ 18mm, 1/1000, f/11, ISO 500, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Rome - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 24mm, 1/200, f/22, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Rome – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 24mm, 1/200, f/22, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Rome heading towards Vatican City - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 40mm, 1/800, f/14, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Rome heading towards Vatican City – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 40mm, 1/800, f/14, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We even got to spend a Sunday afternoon at Vatican City and listened to Pope Francis deliver an address to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.  Did not understand a word but as we say at M&M “You don’t just take a photograph, you experience it!”  It is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that anyone who goes to Rome should try and experience.  Wish I would have brought a longer lens – even left the 70-200 at the hotel as I chose to do this walk with just one lens.  Lesson learned?  Yes, carry your pack and gear at all times – even if you have been to a location MANY times before because you never know what will present itself.

We even got to see The Pope - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/800, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We even got to see The Pope – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/800, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

After the Tuscany trip was complete I had a few days to myself in Rome and Venice while in transit to Croatia for my next group.  Here are a few shots from Venice:

Venice - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/400, f/4.5, ISO 2000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite pro Express

Venice – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/400, f/4.5, ISO 2000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite pro Express

Venice canal - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 2000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Venice canal – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 2000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Hope you enjoy the post.  Look forward to have some of you joining us in Italy next year – May 17-26, 2015.

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.

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.

Vietnam – everyone should visit at least once in their life

Posted in better my photography, BlackRapid, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, H'Mong, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Indochina, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, 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, street food, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by mmphototours

Ho Chi Minh Memorial

Canon 5d Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 35mm, 1/100, f/9, ISO 400, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Ho Chi Minh is the father of modern Vietnam.  His mausoleum is pictured above.  We make a few historical stops every year depending on timing and weather.  M&M visits Vietnam every year in October.  It is one of our most popular trips every year.  Through this post we hope to share a few thoughts, info, and images that will inspire you to visit and enjoy what we enjoy.

The Vietnam you may picture in your mind is different from what you will see when you visit.  Yes, there is a lot of progress to be made here and there has been a ton of progress in the last 40 years.  The people work hard, there are millions of scooters and 50cc motorbikes, and what awaits you photographically is a true wonder.  Let’s first learn a bit about the country.

Chinese writing at Hanoi Pagoda

Canon 5d Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 105mm, 1/100, f/5, ISO 2000, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The history of Vietnam goes back thousands of years – archaeological findings showing human settlements as far back as around half a million years ago and a cultural history of over 20,000 years.  The history of the country has always been tied to conflict both internally and with foreign powers.  In about 111 B.C. the Chinese Han dynasty conquered northern Vietnam’s Red River Delta and the ancestors of today’s Vietnamese.  Chinese dynasties ruled Vietnam for the next 1,000 years, inculcating it with Confucian ideas and political culture.  In 939 AD, Vietnam achieved independence under a native dynasty.  After 1471, when Vietnam conquered the Champa Kingdom in what is now central Vietnam, the Vietnamese moved gradually southward, finally reaching the rich Mekong Delta, encountering Cham and Cambodians.  While Vietnam’s emperors reigned ineffectually, powerful northern and southern families fought civil wars in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Watering the fields in Vietnam

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 100, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Most westerners know of the conquest of Vietnam by France which began in 1858 and completed by 1884.  It became part of French Indochina in 1887.  Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by Communist forces under Ho Chi Minh.  Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and anti-Communist South.  US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government.  In January 1969, the United States, governments of South and North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong met for the first session of peace talks in Paris, France.  These talks, which began with much hope, moved slowly.  They finally concluded with the signing of a peace agreement, the Paris Accords, on January 27, 1973.  As a result, the south was broken into a patchwork of zones controlled by the South Vietnamese Government and the Viet Cong.  The United States withdrew its forces, although U.S. military advisers remained.  In 1975 North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under Communist rule.  Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies, the persecution and mass exodus of individuals – many of them successful South Vietnamese merchants – and growing international isolation.

Weathered old man and beard

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/400, f/5, ISO 400, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

However, since the enactment of Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries.  The Communist leaders, however, maintain control on political expression and have resisted outside calls to improve human rights.  The country continues to experience small-scale protests from various groups – the vast majority connected to land-use issues, calls for increased political space, and the lack of equitable mechanisms for resolving disputes. Various ethnic minorities, such as the Montagnards of the Central Highlands and the Khmer Krom in the southern delta region, have also held protests looking for more rights and involvement in government.

Sapa market lady

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/500, f/5, ISO 400, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We spend a lot of time photographing the people and their lives while in Vietnam.  They are so kind and patient with us and they appreciate the time we share with them.  We also contribute to their local economy by staying local, eating local and buying small gifts for family and friends back home.  The Vietnamese are working hard to build their lives and their country.  Tradition and family remain important to them in every region and you often find extended families living together and taking care of each other.

Kids in Sapa Vietnam

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/1600, f/4.5, ISO 400, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Ceramic casket maker in Vietnam

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 1250, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The woman above is one of my recent favorite images I’ve captured in rural Vietnam.  We visit a small pottery village every year and photograph and experience the lifestyles of the people.  This woman was painting ceramic reburial caskets – a local tradition for their dead.  Her eyes are so expressive.  The image below is her finished product – off to market it goes.  She painstakingly hand-painted every single one of the caskets you see.

Reburial caskets in Vietnam

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 70mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 1250, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The last shot we want to share in this post is from the hills outside Sapa, Vietnam.  We get off the beaten path and visit several small local ethnic villages.  We are always greeted by children practicing their English (yes, they are all great salespeople) and the images we capture often show how happy kids are here.  This little guy was so happy to have scored two bottles of water from our driver and he was marching off with his troops to enjoy his spoils.  It was simply an awesome experience to witness a child so happy over a small thing.  The event brought a few of our guests to tears and they ran over to Mike G. planting kisses on his cheek to thank him and M&M for bringing them such an awesome experience – both photographically and life lesson wise.  As we say at M&M – “You don’t just take a photograph, you experience it.”

Marching with my water

Canon 5d Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 105mm, 1/320, f/8, ISO 800, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We hope you enjoyed the post.  Feel free to share it with your friends.  We look forward to hosting you all on an M&M Photo Tour soon.