The ghosts of Dubrovnik

A long duration (3.2 seconds) shot along the main street (Stradun) of the old town of Dubrovnik, Croatia:

Ghosts of Dubrovnik

One of the reasons for our recent trip to eastern Europe was the desire to see some still less-visited places before they’re “discovered” by tourist mania.  Dubrovnik was the one spot on our route that we knew in advance was definitely “discovered” already, yet it still didn’t disappoint.

OK, the prices there are accordingly a bit high.  But the old town’s got scenery in spades, the people are wonderful, and there’s a wealth of history to explore (its more-recent history being more than a little sad).  And as you can guess from this shot, it’s got some pretty good nightlife.  The two figures in yellow over black, BTW, really were two young women — identically dressed.

The Olympus E-M1 and 12-40mm f/2.8 lens on the road

I recently returned from a trip to the Yucatán peninsula — fortunately I’d received my pre-ordered Olympus E-M1 body and 12-40mm f/2.8 lens before we left for the trip (the lens’ arrival preceding my departure by all of two days), so thought I’d write up some quick thoughts on how the combination behaved for me in real-world travel.

The E-M1, de-blinged
The E-M1, de-blinged in Belize

First off, I like to take the shine off my camera gear before travel in the 3rd world (on the assumption that this will make it a bit less attractive to the average petty thief). Both the E-M1 and 12-40mm lens have quite a bit of flashy trim and lettering on them, so it took me longer than usual to “de-bling” them for travel. Still, at least they both have a black finish, so a 3rd party lens cap and about 20 minutes’ work with black gaffer tape did the trick.

You’ll also notice in the above image that I’ve set up my E-M1 with a Peak Design “Cuff” — I’ll write up a full review of this item later, but it proved to be a very helpful ally as well.

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The Tower

Probably one of the most-photographed sights at the ancient Maya ruins of Palenque, it’s the Palace’s tower:

The Tower

On the days we visited Palenque, we had to deal with pretty persistent clouds — not a huge deal, if you have a few ways to handle them.  In this case, I used NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 to avoid losing the shadowed parts of the tower and get a little drama in the otherwise-featureless clouds.  It’s on the edge of looking “over-cooked,” but I think it works for this image.

The funny thing in retrospect is that in order to get this shot, I had to stand on what once were the Palace’s toilets.  Good thing they haven’t been used for a thousand years.

If you’re planning on travel to Palenque in the near future, I’m doing final edits to my “Photographer’s Guide” eBook for the ruins at Palenque.  Should hit the (metaphorical) streets by Wednesday.  Stay tuned…

Fall colors

A little scene, captured along highway 82 in Colorado, west of Twin Lakes on the road to Aspen:

Fall colors

A fun little story goes along with this shot. The landowner where I spotted this scene has the cleared part of his / her land set up picture-perfect, almost as if to invite photography. Old barn, old windmill, old tractor — it’s all there just waiting for a “calendar shot.” When we slowed down so I could grab a few shots, someone was already parked in the driveway. I pulled alongside him, and he left — to be replaced about 30 seconds later by another visitor. After I was done shooting, yet another photog took my place.

If the landowner set out a tip jar, they could collect some serious cash (more if they had pre-signed property release forms)!

Tulúm shoreline

Looking north along the shoreline at the ancient Maya ruins of Tulúm in Quintana Roo, Mexico:

Tulum shoreline

Tulúm may not have the best architecture compared to other Maya sites, but you’ve got to admit that its location can’t be beat for photography! And if you’re lucky enough to show up at low tide, the beach in this picture is open to swimmers and sunbathers.


Building 6 at the Maya ruins of Dzibanché, near Chetumal in Quintana Roo, México:


Dzibanché is a bit of an odd duck — great things to see, but it’s sufficiently off the “usual” track for tourists that it doesn’t get many visitors. It doesn’t help, either, that basically all the tour guide books describe the road to the site as being a rutted dirt track (it’s narrow and crooked, but has been paved for at least 10 years).

Of course, the good news for those that *do* drive out to Dzibanché is that you’ll most likely have the place to yourself. Oh, and you can climb most of the pyramids here (unlike many of the more-visited ruins).

Building 6, by the way, is the first pyramid you see on your walk into the site. It’s also known as the “Palace of the Lintels” after some carved wood beams that were discovered here (sadly, they’ve been removed and replaced by more modern wood).

12 November update — by the way, if you happen to be planning a trip to the Yucatan, I’m in the process of releasing a set of 12 guides to Maya ruins. Oriented toward photography in the ruins, they only cost a couple of dollars each via Amazon’s Kindle store — the one for Dzibanché and its neighbors is described here. I’ve released two guides so far, the rest of the dozen should be out before the end of the year — so stay tuned!

Mesa Arch sunrise

So we recently returned home from an extended weekend trip to Moab, Utah and the surrounding area. If you’re unfamiliar with the neighborhood, “surroundings” in this case means Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Anyway, it’s been aeons since we last visited Moab — well before I had any decent digital camera gear, so I did my now-usual photographic research before we went. Turns out that one of the “must see” things in the area is sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands.

So here’s my first go at the sight (I’m still tweaking levels to make it look less-obviously HDRed):

Mesa Arch sunrise

In retrospect, it’s kind of funny how most images of this particular sunrise location focus heavily on the arch — when, from my perspective at least, the arch is best used as a nice frame for the incredibly layered scenery on the other side of it.

By the way, the layers come courtesy of local coal-fired power plants. Coal exhaust haze: lousy for lungs, great for sunrise vistas.

Anyway, from the looks of this, you can’t really tell just how small the arch is. Perhaps this helps:

2010-09-06 2010.09.06 Canyonlands sunrise crowd 7

Since the word is out about this arch, and there isn’t much room to set up in, you’re well advised to get there early (at least 45 minutes before sunrise) if you want a shot exactly at sunrise. At least, if you want to shoot over on the left side. Right side was less crowded the morning I went:

2010-09-06 2010.09.06 Canyonlands sunrise crowd 6

Go figure — the view’s just about as good from the less-crowded right side, too. FWIW, the tripod with the black and red leg padding (in line with the guy in white here) is my rig, firing away with an interval timer.

I scouted out the arch the day before in daylight and marked the parking lot on my GPS navigator — makes life a lot easier in the morning, when you’re driving in the dark with no visual cues. Oh, and bring a spelunker’s flashlight (the kind on an elastic band for your head) — makes it much easier to find the trail to the arch in the dark.