Sri Lanka Belongs On Every Photographer’s Bucket List

Sri Lanka Belongs On Every Photographer’s Bucket List

Bucket List

Sri Lanka Belongs On Every Photographer’s Bucket List

The Island Marco Polo believed to be the “Most Beautiful Island in the World” is a true Tropical Paradise.

At the tender age of 24, Marco Polo was dispatched by Kublai Khan, Emporer of China, to the island now known as Sri Lanka, to receive the tooth of the Buddha, one of the holiest relics in Buddhism. That quest was ultimately unsuccessful but he did leave with a newfound respect and admiration for the tropical island. Marco, no slouch in the travel department, declared Sri Lanka as “Undoubtedly, the finest island of its size in all the world.”

Sri Lanka offers some of the best historic and cultural photography (the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Kandy, and Polonnaruwa boast of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites), wildlife safaris that rival many itineraries in eastern Africa, and some of the most stunning tropical beaches in the world for the landscape shooters. There are tea plantations in the misty mountain highlands (a train ride through the tea country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience), colorful fishing villages and open markets, and much more. Many of these vastly different photography opportunities can be experienced within the same day. After a closer look, it’s easy to see why Sri Lanka should rank high on any travel photographer’s bucket list.

Wildlife and Nature

The wildlife of Sri Lanka is as varied as the general photographic opportunities. 12 percent of the country’s land is protected as wildlife and conservation sanctuaries so that many generations to come can enjoy encounters with nature and wildlife on the island. More than 400 species of birds live here as well as leopards, elephants, deer, monkeys, and prolific marine life such as whales and sea turtles, Yala and Minneriya National Parks are two highlights for wildlife and nature photographers.

Sri Lanka is also home to inland mountains with dozens of photogenic waterfalls and some of the most picture-perfect tropical beaches in the world. The seaside village of Tangalle in the southern part of the island is one of my favorite places for sunrises over the Indian Ocean and photographing sea turtles.

Sri Lanka and the Cultural Triangle

In 1972, the people discarded the country’s old name of Ceylon and officially introduced the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the world. In Sinhala, the language spoken by the majority of the people, Sri means “blessed” while Lanka is the name of the island. In Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle located in the country’s mid-section, there sits a host of ancient monuments, Buddhist temples, and historical royal cities that once served as the center of early Sinhalese people and civilization. The points of this geographic triangle are comprised of the hill capital of Kandy, Anuradhapura – a rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders, and Polonnaruwa. This rich cultural area also contains the spectacular rock fortress of Sigiriya and the cave monastery of Dambulla (my favorite cultural location for photography).

 

People

My Sri Lanka Photography Workshop and Tour in March of 2019 focuses not only on the cultural, historical, and the natural attributes of this stunning country, but we also concentrate our lens on the beautiful people who live and work here. In all my travels, I have rarely met as many open, friendly, and cooperative photography subjects (on two feet anyway). On a train ride through the high-country tea plantations (part of my Sri Lanka “Jewel of Asia” Photography Tour) you get meet and photograph friendly people in small villages, working the tea fields in the mist shrouded mountains.

Gray langur monkeys (Semnopithecus entellus) in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. In addition to the prolific monkeys, Polonnaruwa is home to ruins of a ancient city and was claimed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Sunrise over the Indian Ocean, in Tangalle, southern Sri Lanka. Tangalle is just one of the many world-class tropical beaches in Sri Lanka  that affords some amazing sunrises and sunsets.

Hunnasgiriya waterfall (Hunnas Falls) in Sri Lanka’s lush and beautiful mountain highlands.

Be sure to check out my 2019 Sri Lanka “Jewel Of Asia” Photography Tour if you want to photograph and experience this stunning island paradise.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.

How To Sleep On A Plane

How To Sleep On A Plane

Travel

How To Sleep On A Plane

I make a dozen or more overnight flights each year during my frenzied schedule as a travel photographer and I’ve learned a few tricks on how to get the proper rest to maintain the highest physical, mental, and creative energy levels possible. Sleeping at night while traveling can be difficult for a lot of people. Different beds than you’re accustomed to, jet lag, and disruptions to your body’s circadian rhythm are just a few reasons. My advice when traveling internationally is to get your sleep whenever and wherever you can. That includes on the bus, in the car (as long as you’re not driving) and on planes, especially during overnight flights.

The worst way to begin an overseas adventure is tired, fatigued, and with zero energy after a 14-hour flight. Here are some tips on how to avoid that by getting some good sleep on the plane.

My Three Favorite Accessories for Travel Sleep

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow I’ve tried pillows of every variety in order to perfect the cosmic airplane sleep. The airline pillows are crap. I even never understood the neck pillows that seem uber popular with travelers. They were never comfortable at all to me. The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow (medium size) is about twice as big as the standard airline pillow, has 3 times the loft, and compresses down to a manageable size for putting in your carry on bags.

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones Bose products are simply the best. I prefer the noise-cancelling ear buds over the bulky headphones that makes it difficult to get comfortable for sleep. Use these for soft music or use the noise-cancelling feature alone just to cut down on ambient plane noise.

Earth Therapeutics Dream Zone Sleep Mask I’ve tried a half dozen eye shades until I found these. These are silky, soft and so comfortable to wear. When I lay by head back to rest, I don’t even realize I am wearing anything over my eyes.

Preparation 

I don’t try to sleep immediately after takeoff. I’ve learned the routine of the on-board staff so I choose the optimal time to pull down the eye shades and get some shut eye. When the plane climbs to 10,000 feet, there are usually a barrage of announcements and crass commercial promotions you have to endure. Then within the first hour, dinner is usually served. I take a pass on the airline food but I might order a glass of wine at this point to help continue the process of winding down. Some of you might be tempted to drink more than just one glass of wine to help with sleep. This is a bad idea. Drinking excessive alcohol will lead to more bathroom visits and dehydration. As I said, it’s just a bad idea. Don’t do it.

As soon as the dinner service is completed and the lights in the main cabin are turned down, I’ll use the restroom one last time, throw on a sweater to stay warm, grab my pillow, turn on the noise-canceling headphones, and drop the eye shades. My next conscious moment should come about eight hours later with the breakfast service announcement.

The Window Seat

I think we can all agree that the middle seat is the least desirable seat option. But the window is far superior to the aisle seat if you plan on catching some sleep on your long flight. There are several good reasons for this. First, you won’t have passengers or flight attendants bumping into you while strolling down the aisle during the night. Second, you don’t have to worry about fellow passengers in your row waking you to get up to use the restroom. Third, the window seat offers the side of the plane and/or window to rest your head and pillow up against. Window seat. Very important.

Get Comfortable

If you’re using one of the blankets provided to you by the airline, make sure your seatbelt is clearly visible. Otherwise, if the plane encounters turbulence, an airline attendant might wake you to be sure you’re buckled in. That goes for any heavy coats or sweaters as well. It might be difficult to fall asleep again after the interruption.

To Recline Or Not To Recline?

There is a surprisingly heated debate among “travel experts” on whether it’s appropriate to recline your seat on a plane. Many say it’s rude and it should absolutely never be done. But then again, that big round button on the side of the armrest is there for a reason. The closer your body can gain the horizontal, the easier sleep will be. If there is no one sitting in the seat behind me, I will definitely recline. If the person behind me has reclined, I will also recline with no issues. If the passenger in front of me has reclined and there is someone sitting behind me, I will always politely ask if it’s ok before pushing my seat back. No one has ever refused the request.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.

Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

Gear Reviews

Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

It’s the most frequently-asked question and perhaps the least important. “What’s in the bag?”

I say it’s the least important since it’s usually the first (and easiest) avenue beginning photographers take to try and improve their photography work. They believe that better and more expensive gear will create a better photographer but more often than not, it only leads to disappointment. A better investment would be in time – time spent practicing their technique and honing their personal vision. Still, photo equipment is not unimportant either. if you’re not convinced, just try doing photography without it!

So with that said, let’s have a look into my photo bag (all links to Amazon):

Photo Equipment

Camera Bag: One of several MindShift Gear bags, depending on the trip or assignment. Moose Peterson MP-1 V2.0, FirstLight 40L, or BackLight 36L.

In addition to the actual bag that I choose for a particular trip, the contents in the bag also depend on where I am going, what I will be shooting, how remote the area, and how much hiking there will be. Here is some of my basic photo equipment:

Canon 1DX Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV

I’ll carry (2) 5D Mark IV bodies on my landscape or travel photography trips and (1) 1DX Mark II and (1) 5D Mark IV for wildlife excursions.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (when weight is an issue or for bird-in-flight images)
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM
Irix 11mm f/4 Blackstone (when I want to travel light and the Canon 11-24 is too heavy and bulky).
Canon Extender EF 1.4X III
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite Flash (2)
MagMod 2 Basic Flash Modifier Kit
Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote
Lee Filter Holder with polarizing filter, 3-stop ND, 6-stop ND (Little Stopper) and 10-stop ND (Big Stopper)
Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Tripod
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 Tripod
Really Right Stuff BH40 ball head (2)
Really Right Stuff BH35 ball head

Wimberley WH-200 Gimbal Head II
Lexar digital media
Mac Book Pro 15.4″ Computer with Retina Display, Touch Bar, 2.9GHz Intel Core i7 Quad Core…
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C 4TB Portable Hard Drive

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.

My Favorite American National Parks For Photography

My Favorite American National Parks For Photography

Bucket List

America’s National Parks: My Favorites for Photography

My recent travels have taken me to some amazing places around the world (Iceland, Patagonia, Myanmar, Tanzania, and others) but many of my all-time favorite photography locations are the National Parks of the United States. Most of these parks are beyond beautiful, easily accessible for recreational activities, and are preserved as sanctuaries for pristine mountains, deserts, forests, seashores, tundra, and the wild creatures that inhabit them.

The writer, historian, and environmentalist Wallace Stegner is credited with coined the phrase America’s Best Idea when referring to the National Park System. Here’s what he said in 1983: “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

At the time of this writing, there are 59 National Parks in the United States. By my last count, I have photographed in 32 of them. Here – in no particular order – are my 5 favorite parks, with a few honorable mentions as well. If you have a favorite that American National Park that didn’t make my list, let me know which is your favorite in the comment section, including why.

Yosemite National Park

No other place in the world inspires photographers quite like Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Iconic landmarks such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls are burned into the psyche of landscape photographers in both name and visage. Spring, particularly the month of May when the waterfalls have the highest flows and the dogwoods along the Merced River are in bloom, is the most popular season for photographers. The summer months, with bumper-to-bumper traffic in Yosemite Valley, should probably be avoided but any season will produce fantastic images, including winter. Regardless of the month, Yosemite is always a good idea!

(Top) The Yosemite Valley floor and Bridalveil Falls with ground fog. (Bottom Left) A stand of Giant sequoia trees in the snow. (Bottom Right) Last light on Half Dome.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It’s the most visited of all the national parks in the United States as well as one of the most ecologically diverse. Often dubbed “Wildflower National Park” because of the profuse blooms each spring (mid to late April is best) the Smokies have so much more to offer than flowers. There is spectacular autumn colors in late October, stacked mountain ridges, and wildlife too, including the highest density of black bears in the world. The Smoky Mountains National Park is also my “home park” and the place where I honed my photography skills many years ago.

(Top) Rolling clouds through the mountains from Clingmans Dome. (Bottom Left) Splendid autumn colors on the ridge lines. (Bottom Right) Trillium wildflowers in bloom near a spring cascade.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park in Maine is one of the few places in the US where you can capture both deciduous autumn color (second to third week in October) and dramatic seascapes in the same frame. Favorite photography locations within the first national park east of the Mississippi River include Jordan Pond, Jordan Stream, Otter Cliffs, Monument Cove, Cadillac Mountain, Duck Brook, and Hunter Beach Cove. Nearby Bass Head Lighthouse can be crowded with other photographers at sunrise or sunset but it’s certainly worth a visit anyway.

(Top) A vivid sunset at Hunters Beach Cove. (Bottom Left) Autumn reflections and lily pads in The Tarn. (Bottom Right) Twilight at Jordon Pond and The Bubbles.

Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is the most famous landmark in Arches National Park (it’s featured on Utah’s license plate) but it’s certainly not the only shooting location. All in all, there are more than 2000 sandstone arches in the park as well as many other geological formations, windows and fins that make superb photo subjects. With Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park nearby, the town of Moab, Utah makes a great location for a week or two of landscape photography and you still won’t scratch the surface of the available locations.

(Top Left) Rainbow and Balanced Rock. (Top Right) A sunstar peaks through Delicate Arch. (Bottom Left) Shadow and light on the sandstone wall at Skyline Arch. (Bottom Right) Light painting and star trails at Double Arch.

Yellowstone National Park

As America’s first national park established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is best known by photographers for its wildlife and the many geothermal features found within its 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2). I’ve been traveling to Yellowstone for wildlife for more than 20 years and it never disappoints for the wildlife opportunities or the geysers, mud pots and fumaroles. Lamar Valley is often referred to as “America’s Serengeti” because of the sheer abundance of wild animals and is one of those places no wildlife photographer should miss during their lifetime. My favorite seasons for visiting for photography are spring, autumn, and winter while summer is a bit too crowded for my personal taste.

(Top) Fountain Geyser with dramatic evening light. (Bottom Left) Bison in harsh winter weather at Midway Geyser Basin. (Bottom Right) Pine tree skeletons on a foggy morning.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.

Travel Essentials: Six Items You Should Never Leave Home Without

Travel Essentials: Six Items You Should Never Leave Home Without

Gear Reviews

With each trip comes an entirely different packing list. Warm weather versus cold weather, backcountry hiking and camping versus four-star hotels, wildlife shooting versus landscapes or street and urban photography; all of these factors, and more, need to be considered. The type and amount of photo gear can vary greatly from place to place (I can’t take it ALL with me) as does my selection of clothes and footwear. I have four different camera bags in my office, for example, and each has features and benefits that are preferred for a certain types of trips. My MindShift FirstLight 40L Camera Backpack is my standard, go-to camera bag however (I love this bag). As far as luggage, the same principle would apply. Most of the time it’s my Rimowa Classic Aluminum Roller while for other trips a duffle is best.

But there are some non-photography items I would never leave home without – they are just too essential. I traveled to 13 different countries last year and they made my travel easier, my travel gear lighter, and my life on the road much more simple. These six essentials are by no means exclusive and they have nothing to do with photography specifically.

My Six Travel Essentials

JW Hulme Overnight Briefcase – No, its not cheap but it’s one of the best-made briefcases you can buy anywhere. There’s ample space for my laptop, books, phone, passport, wallet, extra underwear and socks, and still plenty of room to spare. It’s all leather with real brass hardware and zippers with a lifetime warranty from a company making leather goods since 1905. Mine has been all over the world and the older it gets, the better it looks. More info at Amazon: JW Hulme Overnight Briefcase

Think Tank Photo Cable Management 30 V2.0 – I need to keep my computer power cord, iPhone and iPad charging cables, power adapters, and other cords and accessories neatly organized and stowed safely away in my briefcase for when I need them. I know myself all too well. If I don’t stay organized while on the road, I’ll lose stuff. This little organizer has been priceless to me. More info at Amazon: Think Tank Photo Cable Management 30 V2.0

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones – Noise cancelling technology is essential for long flights. Airplane noise, loud talkers, and the wail of crying babies will disappear with this device while your sanity is restored. But unlike bulky headphones, these earbuds fit into a nifty little carrying case just slightly larger than a deck of cards. More info at Amazon: Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxers –  Why is this man sharing his underwear with us? Look, I pack just 2 or 3 pairs of these boxers on a trip of any length and they’re all I need. I can wash them in the sink and they dry in 2 or 3 hours. They’re also extremely light and comfortable to wear while sitting for hours on a plane or hiking in the hot desert. More info at Amazon: ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxers

The North Face Paramount Convertible Pants – These lightweight, fast-drying pants can easily be washed in the hotel room’s sink if necessary and the legs unzip to produce instant shorts. The belt and clasping mechanism are built into the pants and they’re made of cloth and plastic so no issues during airport security. Take three pairs, roll them up tightly, and fit them into a corner of your suitcase. Neat and efficient. More info at Amazon: The North Face Paramount Convertible Pants

Buff Original Headwear 12-in-1 Headband – I never go on any photography trip without at least one of my Buffs! This featherweight (less than 3 ounces) microfiber headband can be used as cover for sun protection, around the neck and collar like a scarf to keep warm in cold weather, and as a drying towel in a pinch. Buff claims there are 12 different uses for one and I guess it just depends how creative you want to be to find all 12. More info at Amazon: Buff Original Headwear 12-in-1 Headband

For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.

People and Faces of Gujarat

People and Faces of Gujarat

Travel

I just returned from the state of Gujarat in northwest India where I was a guest of Gujarat Tourism for 10 days while completing an assignment for a major media client here in the United States. And while I photographed many captivating landscapes, city scenes, and festive events during the Navratri season, it was the people who made the most indelible impression on me. Their warmth, friendliness, and hospitality will stay with me until my next visit to India, which I am planning for 2017 or 2018. Please enjoy a few sampled images of the beautiful people and faces of Gujarat!

 

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