Tag Archives: Brazil
Over the past few years, photography has taken me all over the world to many fascinating places and countries. During my most recent trip to Switzerland and France, it occurred to me that I should write down some practical advice for travelers based on my own experiences. This is not a comprehensive checklist of “dos” and “donts” but rather a few subjective bits of advice to keep you out of trouble and to enhance the traveling experience. Enjoy.
Don’t Be a Jerk
Yes, things are done differently here, but isn’t that the reason you came in the first place? Instead of rudely wondering aloud how this isn’t how it’s done back home, embrace the many differences and experience something new for a change. For example, try some of the local food. The fact that it’s different from what you are used to doesn’t make it inferior. Laughing or scoffing at something new, only because it’s different, only makes you look like a narrow-minded, ignorant jerk.
Figure out what you think you’re going to need and then reduce it by a third. If you run out of clean clothes, you can always wash a few items in the river or a the hotel sink. In the rare instance where you need something that you didn’t bring, simply buy it locally or improvise. You will surprise yourself by how little you really need when traveling while the freedom from lugging around useless weight is exhilarating.
Before You Leave, Do Some Research
I learned this the hard way. If I ever happen to meet you in person, buy me a beer and ask me about the time I narrowly escaped detainment after the Brazilian border police discovered I didn’t have have my required visa – AFTER I had already entered the country. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but hopefully you will learn never to repeat the same mistake I made.
In addition to the important stuff – like having the right paperwork – check out the currency exchange rates, maps (Google Earth and Google Maps are great tools), and any travel advisories issued for the area you’re visiting.
Do Not Photograph Children Without Permission
In many countries, this can get you into big trouble. You could be breaking a law and end up in jail. You could get shot or the crap beat out of you. All of these scenarios are sure to ruin your trip.
Learn some of the local language, even if only a few commonly-used phrases
This helps you get around a little and makes you appear fractionally less clueless than you actually are. Here are a few items you might want to consider:
Hello, Goodbye (exhibits good manners)
Thank you very much (better manners yet)
Where is the toilet? (for obvious reasons)
Help! Somebody call the police! (In case you really do need help or to recognize when it’s time to make a run for it).
No matter how well you plan, the plan will fail at some point. Things never go as planned. Never. Cancelled or delayed flights, getting sick, getting lost, bad weather, and unrealistic expectations are all part and parcel of traveling. Getting mad or upset doesn’t help, so I’ve conditioned myself to expect these things to happen and consider it as part of an adventure. Your own attitude about the little obstacles and predicaments will either make the trip exponentially better or worse. And really, wouldn’t it be a little boring if everything went down exactly as planned anyway?
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Once again, it’s that season when we look back and reflect on what we’ve accomplished during the past year. Hopefully, there is some degree of accomplishment. We all have a finite number of years remaining and every one of them should be lived to its fullest – to achieve real personal growth and experience as much as one is capable of in a short 365. Last night I sat awake and ruminated over the past year and I feel as if I accomplished many – if not most – of my personal and professional goals for 2011. I still feel as if I have a lot to prove – not to any one person, mind you, but only to myself – and I’m looking forward to a challenging and exciting 2012 as well. And with that, a Happy New Year to you all.
As for the images that mark many of my fondest experiences, here they are in no particular order. These are only my favorites, for whatever it’s worth. You may disagree. But I do hope you enjoy the indulgence of my reminiscing on the year that was through the lens.
The Iguazú Falls, which sits along the border of Argentina and Brazil in South America, were just chosen as one of the new natural seven wonders of the world in a contest in which thousands of people voted via text messages, by phone and online. The result will be made official in 2012 with a big celebration.
Alongside the Iguazú Falls, the Amazon river, Halong Bay in Vietnam, South Africa’s Mesa Mountain, the subterranean river in Puerto Princesa, Phillipines, Jeju island in South Korea and Komodo, Indonesia also made the cut.
The new seven wonders were chosen as the result of voting from the 28 final candidates, chosen by a group of experts after analyzing over 450 bids. Voting ended on Friday November 11th 2011 at 11.11, and 11 seconds.
Congratulations to all of the supporters of the campaign to help Iguazú reach this lofty status. Having been there in March of this year, I know it’s a tremendous source of pride for the local people. The above photo, On Earth as it is in Heaven, was taken at sunrise from the Brazil side of the falls.
Because tips sound cheap, rules have no place in any creative endeavor, and commandments are harsh and compulsory, I’ve decided to call these my ten suggestions.
I receive more questions and emails about how to photograph waterfalls than any others, so here are my suggestions – both for beginners and the more advanced.
1 Seek Soft, Diffused Light. This is the default lighting condition with nearly all waterfall-seeking photographers, and for good reason. Overcast skies, light rain, and fog are what photographers seek and prefer because the soft light prohibits bright highlights and dark shadows from creating too much contrast in an image. Diffused light compresses the scene’s tonal range and extracts the maximum amount of available detail.
2 Don’t Necessarily Avoid Sunny Weather Either. If this seems to contradict the previous tip, you’re right. Waterfalls can be successfully captured on sunny days in bright light, but it helps if the entire scene is evenly illuminated and there are no shadows. The point here is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the right light with waterfalls. Try something different and go against the grain.
3 Use a Slow Shutter Speed. To give the water the illusion of motion, try a slowed-down shutter speed. I prefer a range of 1/8 second to 2 seconds, as any duration longer than 2 seconds gives featureless, white areas where the water detail should be. Determining factors on what the right shutter speed might be are the focal length being used, the distance from the water, the distance the water is falling, and the volume of water in the falls. Long shutter speeds give moving water a silky appearance and projects a feeling of grace or fragility. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that a tripod is necessary for this effect.
4 Use a Fast Shutter Speed. As a contrast to the previous suggestion, try a faster shutter speed (1/60 of a second or faster) to project a feeling of raw power or awe. Photography is much more successful when it carries an emotional trigger and the choice of shutter speed can express how you feel about the scene – and what the viewer will ultimately feel.
5 Use a Polarizing Filter. Almost everyone knows how a polarizing filter can remove glare on water or wet rocks. But this effect can be overdone. Next time, don’t turn the filter all the way to full polarization. Instead, rid the wet rocks and vegetation of most glare but leave some detail and texture in the water as well. A polarizing filter may be the most often-used filter for outdoor and nature photography, but it’s also the most overused, in my opinion.
6 Include the Waterfall’s Surroundings. Give the image context and help tell a story about the place by including some nearby landforms and its surroundings. With the image above, the inclusion of the ocean clearly gives this waterfall context and a sense of place that one might not expect with a cropped version.
7 Zoom In. And sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes grabbing a telephoto lens from the bag and capturing an intimate piece of the falls results in a more compelling image. Which scale represents a more accurate spirit and feel of the place? Often it’s an intimate interpretation.
8 Take the Plunge. Don’t limit your compositional options to places where your tripod can only be erected on terra firma. Getting wet might give you the better angle or perspective. The viewer of your image should almost feel the cold water running over their feet and ankles.
9 Look for Visual Flow. Moving water has implied movement and direction. So why not use this to create visual flow that moves the viewer’s eye through the image frame? The image above is rather simple, but it effectively moves the eye diagonally from the upper left part of the image to the lower right creating balance and flow.
10 Think and See Abstractly. Waterfalls are beautiful, meditative, and captivating natural features. It’s so easy as a photographer to become seduced by their beauty and hope that beauty alone will carry the image. Instead, appreciate the aesthetics and beauty of the scene but also try to see the abstract qualities of the scene as well. Lines, shapes, space, and their relationships to each other will make a “pretty” picture much more dynamic and alive. For example, look at the image above. This is all about diagonal lines, triangles, and movement. How many triangles do you see in this image after you ignore that there is a waterfall in there too? Let go of the literal for just a moment and look for abstract qualities. There will be plenty of time to sit on a mossy rock afterward to take it all in.
Iguazu (or Iguassu) Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil presents some formidable obstacles for nature photographers: the ever-present spray from the falls that collects on the front element of lenses, the restrictions on times one can be there (8 am to 6 pm on either side of the falls, unless you are staying at the very pricey Hotel Das Cataratas in Brazil), limited unobstructed views, and hoards of tourists during the aforementioned hours. Iguazu is a major attraction in South America.
On this particular morning, everything came together rather easily. I had this particular view, which offers a spectacular look into the “Devils Throat” all to myself. Also, the prevailing winds this morning were blowing toward the falls and the mist, so long exposures were not marred by annoying water droplets. It was one of the rare peaceful moments during my visit to this amazing natural spectacle, with no sounds other than the roar of the the 275 individual, discreet falls in the area and Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack from The Mission reverberating through my head.