Travel

European Travels: Two months in Cyprus

Hello!  I have finally got the last couple months work in Cyprus all edited and figured it would be best to share now rather than try to make a massive post at the end of my trip!  If you don't see somewhere you hoped I would visit don't worry!  I still have so much I want to see and will be making return trips to some spots when the vegetation comes in with the spring and summer months!  I am going to be changing up my writing format for this post and sticking the focus all on the images, adding in blocks of text only where needed.  As always feel free to click on an image to isolate it in full size!

 

THE AKROTIRI PENINSULA

 

It can be a bit hard to photograph the Akrotiri Peninsula if you are not a military member but for those of us who are be sure to check out the cliffs on the far end near the lighthouse.

 

AVAKAS GORGE

 

Avakas is easily A must visit if you are on Cyprus for anything other than the summer parties in Aiya Napa.  The gorge is stunning and was actually a bit longer than I thought.  It also opens up really well for some nice hiking at the end if you are up to the task.  I have this on my list of return spots due to the harsh light I was fighting while there the first time.

 

GREEN VALLEY FALLS

 

Green Valley  Falls were admittedly fairly underwhelming.  They charge for "upkeep" of the area and other than being a good spot to cool off real quick in the summer it doesn't offer much. 

 

ADONIS BATHS

 

Also on my list of disappointments these two small falls really fall short, especially when you need to pay to enter.  That said though these are a proper swimming pool and come summer might have more vegetation to help them be a bit more picturesque and worth the visit.  If you are visiting in the winter or fall months, maybe give this one a pass.

 

AKAMAS PENINSULA

 

Another Absolute must if not enjoying the typical party holiday on Cyprus.  Akamas Peninsula is incredible.  It offers some lush beaches to swim off of and tons of trails to ride if you have any experience with off roading.  If you do not fall into that group you can still tour the area by boat or even take helicopter rides to the area via Paphos!  Regardless of how you see it try to take some time and enjoy this little peice of the island.

 

POTIMA BEACH

 

This beach is a great pit stop on the way to the Edro III Ship wreck or Paphos, quick to pull off the road take a few snaps and maybe even a dip if the weather is warm!  Nothing special about it just another gorgeous beach on Cyprus!

 

EDRO III SHIPWRECK

 

The Edro is a must catch if you are a shipwreck chaser.  It sits right near the shore and you can drive almost all the way up to it as well so no worries about a long hike just to see a ship.  For those who are not photographers looking for a great shot it is still A  rather unique Cyprus landmark so tie it in with a larger day of sightseeing in Paphos and check it off your list!

 

HANTARA FALLS

 

Hantara Falls up in the Troodos range has to be the best set of falls I have hit on Island yet.  Take the time as well to hike up the stream past the main set of falls or up the adjacent hills for a nice view!

 

PETRA TOU RAMIOU (APHRODITES ROCK)

 

Said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love and fertility.  This stop on Cyprus is worth seeing rain or shine.  The road leading by the beach offers some wonderful cliffside views or you can always stop and take a dip in the water in warmer months.

 

LEFKARA VILLAGE

 

Known mostly for its Silver and Lace art Lefkara is a real gem.  The town has a very traditional feel and spending a few hours walking the streets can be a really nice start to your day.

 

The TROODOS RANGE AND ITS VILLAGES

Troodos is a must in the winter and still plenty worth it in the summer months.  There are so many small little villages and passes to roll through on your way up to the mountain peaks.  Take a day and spend it driving through the mountains, you wont regret it.

 

MILOMERIS FALLS

 

Milomeris Falls and the area surrounding Pino Platres village can be a great way to knock out a few hours hiking.  The stream is extremely healthy, the small village of Pino Platres vibrant, and there is even an adventure park nearby!  As for the Falls themselves they are very easy to access as some work has been done to build walkways up to them.  I did make this visit during the winter months so I really can't wait to get back and see it in the summer when some of the trees in the area have their leaves.

European Travels: 48 Hours Photographing Iceland

I want to start off apologizing to my regular readers for no general post last month, I had my hands full finishing up the edits to bring you this!  Sadly I have not shot terribly much this month either but will have another full location post on the way as well as another Okinawan Adventures throwback hopefully so you can look forward to that.

 

Moving forward lets cover some basics of this trip and how I came to spend a weekend in one of the most beautiful countries I have visited so far first.  A good friend who I met on my trip to Taiwan contacted me at the beginning of August and stated that he would be traveling to Iceland at the end of the month for 5 or so days.  I was ecstatic, Iceland was near the top if not at the top of my must see while living in Europe list!  However, due to some tight manning constraints, I was only able to go up for a weekend during his time up.  

I quickly asked if it would be ok if that while I was in country we rent a 4x4 to free us up and lessen the costs of the trip by just sleeping rough in the jeep.  Carsten had no issues with it and even hooked us up with a discount on one due to working for an airline!  I also got ahold of another photographer friend from Okinawa who is stationed in the UK now to tell him about the opportunity and see if he would be up to split the jeep costs with us and go on the trip.  Cody was quick to say yes and so began my planning process.

I knew what I wanted to see and I knew everyone else would be happy to see even half of my list so as usual I just kinda took over the agenda and planning aspect.  I think you guys will really approve of the amount we managed to cover in honestly a little less than 48hours time in Iceland.

As soon as we hit the ground we were on the move.  Carsten had arrange the rental company to grab us at the airport and to meet us there so after a quick reunion / introduction we were off to grab a pretty decent Toyota Rav4.  I think we paid 300 Euro for the two days we had it so not terribly bad considering how expensive everything else was, and fuel turned out not to be much above costs in the UK even if that is still significantly higher than my American standards!  Once we got the car and loaded our gear I punched in the first location and we were off.

 

Blue Lagoon

 

Blue Lagoon was a must hit, it's one of the most talked about spots in Iceland and is right on the way to anything else due to its proximity to the airport.  Maybe a 20min drive at most!  I will side with the rumors stating that this is most likely caused by the factory nearby but that doesnt take away from how alien and cool the area is!  The milky teal water, the rigid and barren earth surrounding it.  Blue Lagoon is worth the stop, Plan ahead if you want to use the spa area as its pretty popular and full of tourists!  All these shots were taken in the surrounding no-charge area so don't be off-put that you have to pay to see some of it, there is still plenty to check out without paying the cover fee.
 

After walking around and snapping some shots for twenty to thirty minutes we decided to head off as the drive to the next spot, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, would be a bit on the long side.  We did stop more than a few times however and did plenty of shooting out of the car along the way.  unfortunately, most of the shots did not turn out due to getting hit with some Icelandic weather along the way!  

A stop at some beach café will always come to mind when telling this story though.  Perched on one of the famous black sand beaches Iceland is talked about for the café really had the spirit of all the other stops.  Small, and to its self out in the middle of nowhere, but beautiful and full of friendly folks.  The co-owner was actually American, having met her spouse after moving to Australia to teach folks how to surf.  Talk about a turn of events with her now living in Iceland!  I suppose she does still live on the beach though and seemed very happy to be living the simple life.  I loved the roof of the café it was styled like the bottom of a boat and was really brought a lot of life into the building.

 

Seljalandsfoss

 
 
 

Seljalandsfoss is right off the road, you can literally see it from a mile or so off if your looking!  The Saddest part about these falls is they are popular and the buses will take you here so expect a crowd.  That being said the crowds are not massive and most folks respect that this is nature and seem to be doing a really good job of keeping things nice or the locals are doing a great job keeping things cleaned up!  Either way awesome job, nice to see things given some respect.  The falls are pretty impressive.  Rather large and as most waterfalls in Iceland very picturesque.  The main highlight of Seljalandsfoss is that you can walk in behind the falls and I highly recommend doing so.  Just be prepared to get a little wet!  From Seljalandsfoss we headed to number two on my list Skógafoss!  luckily now we were in the area around Vik so most of the following stops are not too much of a drive until we headed to Haifoss that night!  Something to think about if planning your own trip.

 

Skógafoss

 

Walking up to Skógafoss is awe-inspiring.  You see this waterfall everywhere, its fame alone is enough to make you stop and appreciate that somehow you have come to be standing in front of this beautiful piece of Earth in life.  It really does just force a moment of self reflection on you.  The falls themselves are incredible and actually rather hard to photograph due to folks rushing up to take selfies or just bask in the spray.  What really surprised me though was that there is a path leading up to the top and beyond.  The view from the top is almost as beautiful with is mountainous backdrop and well worth the stop.  This is another must see if you plan to visit Iceland, no trip would be complete without it.  If you can or at least are the type there is a wonderful campsite nearby just at the base full of some wonderful traveler types.

 
 

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck (DC-3)

 

Another popular sight but unpopular stop in Iceland is the US Navy DC-3 crash.  I got so much hate for having us stop here!  I think it was mostly because of the unplanned 4km walk out to the site (you used to be able to drive most the way up to it).  It was the last stop of day one and I will admit is not on my must hit list or even something I recommend unless your specifically interested in stuff like this but to me it was still worth it in general.  I got some cool shots of a genuinely historic place and who knows how long it will be left there!  The surrounding landscape was really wild as well, very flat open almost moonlike except for the awesome mountains way off in the distance!

 

After the DC-3 we had to make a choice,  Where did we want to wake up?  Did we want to start to circle back and sleep at Haifoss so that we could shoot it when we woke up and move to continue north to Kirkjufell for day two hitting whatever is on the way as we go?  We ended up going on this option but the other option was we continue on to Jökulsárlón waking up to the glaciers and spending the rest of day two backtracking to Gullfoss hitting sights like Fjaðrárgljúfur, Svartifoss  and Dverghamrar along the way.  I can't say I regret the option we took but I do really regret not having the time to do both!  I cant wait to make a return trip and spend a week so that I can see everything I want.  As you will see below there are worse places in the world than Haifoss to wake up.  It turned out to be an excellent start to the day.

 

Haifoss

 
 

Nothing like sleeping in a car and waking up to raindrops on the windshield when you were hoping to shoot sunrise over Haifoss.  The feeling of dread washed right over me, quickly however healed by the knowledge that I had an excuse to go back to sleep and wait out the rain.  When I woke up next it was around 830am, the jeep was significantly colder than when we shut our eyes during the night and the windshield had fogged totally over but I didn't hear any rain.  I grabbed my camera and put on some extra layers and opened the door of the jeep stepping out into some fierce wind.

As soon as I stepped out this was the view..  I was in shock.  The night before when we drove up it was pitch black so we had no real idea of what to expect.  I quickly woke the guys up and said you gotta check this out, its insane.  The area was so lush and green.  There were two massive falls roaring only acouple hundred meters from us.  I quickly grabbed the rest of my kit and got to work shooting!

 
 

Looking back I think this spot was my favorite, and funny enough it was a spot I just stumbled upon, most folks do not visit due to needing a 4x4 to get up to the area.  Sometimes places really surprise you I suppose.  I do regret not having the time to take the long trail down to the bottom of the falls and into the gorge, I am sure the views from the bottom of these falls with the huge walls of the gorge would be breathtaking..  I will return to Haifoss on my next trip for sure.

 

After warming up from shooting Haifoss we got headed on our way, next stop, the mighty Gullfoss.  On the way we decided some gloves would be a must and opted for the Icelandic wool variant at a gas station when fueling up for the first time.  Really impressed with the gloves honestly, they are super warm.  If you need a souvenir my recommendation goes to something out of Icelandic wool.  I got a scarf and some gloves.  Cody got a watch cap, gloves, socks, and even a poncho for his woman back home.  Carsten also opted for a pair of gloves if I remember correctly.

 

Gullfoss

 
 

The spray from Gullfoss travels far and wide.  From the moment you park at the falls its covering you and everything around you.  easily one of the hardest falls to photograph on the trip due to the massive amount of mist it throws off Gullfoss was a real treat and a real challenge.  I would say it makes the must see list for sure, I think its Iceland's second most powerful set of falls actually.  I love that you can walk right down onto the rock in the center of the falls as well.

 

Geysir park

 
 

Shortly after Gullfoss you can hit the Geysir park.  Maybe a twenty minute drive from Gullfoss it is worth a stop.  When we headed over we had no idea that the large geysir goes off almost every ten minutes so when we were walking up and it went off we all thought we might have missed it!  However, when the crowd stuck around and we started asking it became pretty clear we would have another chance to capture something like below.  The hill at the back of the park is really worth a climb as well.  It offers some amazing views of the park and surrounding area!  All around I would not say it is a must hit as some places in the highlands would be a much better treat but if your already at Gullfoss you should take the half an hour and stop.

 

The Road to Kirkjufell

 

After the Geysir park we had another long drive ahead of us. almost 3 hours actually.  Carsten was a huge champ and drove almost exclusively on the trip allowing us to snap photos out the windows along the way.  Luckily we were in Iceland so even the journey between major spots was incredible.  Horses and sheep littered our path to Kirkjufell.  Even more amazing was the weather on the trip up.  Not a single drop of rain and some really dramatic landscapes and lighting at times.. 

Just before stopping in the town of Grundarfjörður for some food we came across this incredible landscape.  It could have been a stop all on its own honestly.  We stopped the car and shot photos probably for close to ten or fifteen minutes, the way the light was playing across the road and the distant mountains was incredible.

 

Our next stop was a "pizzeria" in Grundarfjörður.  Carsten and Cody tried horse for the first time and we all had a beer before heading off to Kirkjufell.  Owner was really nice and the place was pretty quiet, Grundarfjörður is a really small but beautiful town, wouldn't mind going back someday.

 

Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellfoss

 

Kirkjufell or its nearby falls did not disappoint.  Well worth the drive up from the south especially when it was such a beautiful ride.  Before we even approached the mountain we were stopping to shoot some seascapes with the mountain, this actually lead to an amazing shot of a small cabin off the side of the road when I was returning to the car.  One of my favorite shots of the trip honestly.  The way the light ripped through the clouds and hit the cabin for just long enough to get the shot was incredible.

 
 

Once we got up to Kikjufellfoss the real fun began, when walking it it can be hard to picture in your head exactly how your going to get the falls in the shot but once your up on the falls and working the scene it becomes easier to put together.  Another awesome point about this location is that it is so far north a fair amount of tourists are not found and your left with just the more dedicated travelers or local photographers.  If you are traveling the ring road this is a must stop.  It was number one on my must see list and turned out to be second on the favorite locations for the trip list with Skógafoss coming in third just behind it and Haifoss being my top.

 

After Kikjufell we decided due to having some extra sunlight to drive around the peninsula and take the long way back to Reykjavík.  During that I decided to take the same approach I did in Scotland to avoid the glares on the window and stick half my body out the window and shoot as we drove down the road.  At least until Cody got worried and made me come back in after a few shots!

 

The Northern Lights

 

At some point during the drive the idea came up that with the skys looking clear we could skip a night out in Reykjavík and opt to stay up north until dark to shoot the milky way and then drive down to catch our flight out at 6am.  I had no issues with it so we found a beach parking space to rackout in until around midnight when it would be dark enough to shoot.  This turned out to be the best decision we would make the whole trip.  When we stepped out of the jeep you could see the Milky Way with your naked eye!  Even better shortly after waking up something absolutely astonishing happened.  The mountains in the distance began to light up and until the colors started to show we honestly thought they were distant city lights before giving the idea more thought and realizing there were not any cities this far north that would put off that much light.  For the next 30-45minutes we stood enjoying the most amazing show nature can put on, and even more wild this was in the summer time.  Everyone we had spoken to before the trip told us not to even consider planning for the northern lights as it would be nearly impossible yet here we were taking them in without any planning at all.  Sometimes lady luck shines her light it seems. 

 
 

Even better I was able to spice up one of the plane crash photos to make this kickass new wallpaper for myself!  Actually my fist time giving sky swaps a go but I think this turned out pretty fantastic!

 
 

Well that wraps up my time in Iceland.  I can't wait to go back and if this trip can be anything for my friends out there let it be a lesson not to let time or money constraints keep you from seeing the world and traveling to places far and wide.  That is not an excuse.  I did all of this for less than 400 US and without even two full days in the country.  Stop blaming everything and everyone else for your failure to push your dreams.  This applies outside of travel to many of you!  I realize I cut some costs by splitting things with friends and generally roughing it but sometimes that is what you have to do.  It wont always be easy or this amazing but at the end of the day you will always have the experience.  

 

To my fellow dream chasers and avid travelers keep it up and I hope to see you around soon!  Hopefully if you have not been to Iceland yet this can be some help to you or inspire you to put it on your list.  if you have been I am already building a hit-list for more week long return trip next year in the summer when the days are longer.  Send your recommendations or get ahold of me if you might wanna rough it in a jeep with me!

European Travels: Stratford-Upon-Avon, Iceland, Portraits, and more from August

Wow after looking through all the images this month it really doesn't seem so slow anymore!  I did two portrait sessions, got back into the automotive world, took a trip to Iceland that I have literally just now landed from, and went to London and Oxford more than a few times for some drinks between friends and fellow photographers!  Let's get this started!

As some of you may already have seen in a previous post I kicked off August in a rush to get back at some of my automotive work.  Attending my first UK meet with Cruize-Hertz; a wonderful community not far from me, and hitting the Silverstone Classic all in a few days!  The classic was amazing and sitting in the pits really was the highlight of it all!

I also was asked this month by one of our guys at the base to finish up some work for him.  It is always horrible to hear that a photographer has backed out of a task in the middle of it.  Apparently, the photographer thought it was ok to keep this guy waiting for months on end with no sign of a completed shoot.  After some approval from the original shooter and a falling out I was asked to see what I could do with the Jpgs and delivered these.  If you are an armature photographer reading this please take note, don't charge for shoots when you may not be able to deliver a finished product.  It tarnishes the art across the board and gives us all a bad rap, further contributing to all time low price points.

Speaking of amateur photographers, I went out on a photo walk to Wroxton Abbey with a local Instagramer Natt and had a pretty killer time, we ended up checking out Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bourton-on-the-water and some other stops around our local area.  Safe to say she is now shooting with her camera in manual!  Love teaching folks about photography and I even got some killer portrait and street work out of it all!

I also as per usual ended up in London, Cambridge, and Oxford pointing my camera at street artists, grabbing pints with friends, and meeting new people!  Managed to go punting for the first time with some Uni folks at Kings college and have started working with some local pubs and bars in Oxford to bring an article to the blog reviewing alot of my favorite spots in the area! 

Finally to top the whole month off I went to Iceland!  It was a bit last minute as a good friend from Germany whom I met when I took my weekend trip in Taiwan contacted me and stated he would be going.  After some quick thought I decided to join him and got ahold of another photographer friend from Okinawa, Cody Thompson, and we all ended up going to shoot the sights in Iceland for 2 days!  It was absolutely incredible and I am still working on the edits and the post so look forward to that!  Here is a small preview of what we accomplished in our short trip, I can't wait to go back.  The top image was snapped in Háifoss, and the bottom is a combination of northern lights shots taken in the north near Ytri Tunga Beach, and the now famous Sólheimasandur DC-3 crash.

 

European Travels: A Trip to the Royal Mile

I have been to Edinburgh twice now while living in the United Kingdom.  Every time I am in the city it is a wonderful experience and both times I have gotten lucky with some good weather!  This city always feels so alive!  Bagpipes play all over the city, street artists stand all up and down the royal mile, and there are tons of places like the castle to stop into and pick up some history or culture.  Whiskey tastings are a must but really when you come make sure to put aside a little time to spend walking around.  Take in all the amazing architecture, grab some breakfast or a pint, and talk with some of the locals!

I do have to single out a few select must see spots, one of them being Calton Hill.  The very top Pano image has perhaps a better viewpoint, Arthur's Seat, but it can be time-consuming if you only have a day or two in the city.  It is because of this that I usually recommend Calton Hill over Arthur's Seat.  With maybe a ten minutes walk from the main station, you can make it up to see some great panoramic views of Edinburgh.  The hilltop also features the National Monument of Scotland, the Dugald Stewart monument pictured below multiple times, and towering above the hill stands the Nelson monument as well!

I wanted to start recommending some spots to stay at due to folks usually asking how I am traveling so much while working full time or just wanting to know some good party spots for their nights out.  I personally love the hostel experience, you get to meet tons of people, they usually have events or tours, and some even feature some really cool spaces like Budget Backpackers, pictured below.  One other hostel in Edinburgh I can also recommend the Castle Rock Hostel, their staff is wonderful and it's a great spot with the Castle right out the front door, sadly I don't have any photos of it.  Do be sure to book in advance at least for a couple days when staying in Edinburgh, it is always full of fellow travelers.

As far as bar or pub recommendations I am not a club guy so I have to recommend either picking up some cigars and stopping into a whiskey tasting or if you are looking for cocktails and staying out late give one of these places a try!



The Devil's Advocate - Near St. Giles - Cocktails and an all around great spot.

The Last Word Saloon - Not far from Queen St. Gardens - Dark atmosphere.

The Dome - Right near the hard rock - really classy, very nice spot even for lunch.

Cafe Royal - not far from the station. - Again really nice spot, maybe even a touch over the top.

Cumberland Bar - a bit far out like Last Word - Awesome Beer Garden

Bramble Bar - right next to Queen St. Gardens - Speakeasy feel, upscale.

One other is Port O'Leith if you like a more local feel this sailor style bar with good people and cheap beer should not disappoint!

Two other must hit spots if you love interior awesomeness or have the time to walk through some cathedrals are St. Giles on the royal mile, and Saint John's down near the Ross fountain!  If you can only hit one go to St. Giles for sure but the glass is really something in Saint John's!

Easily the most touristy thing in town, Edinburgh Castle, does not disappoint.  A fair few of the things to see inside the walls are not photo friendly but don't let that stop you!  The Scottish National War Memorial was really breathtaking as well as the Honours of Scotland, both on the naughty list for photography.  Expect to pay to get in but don't expect to be terribly disappointed. 

The last on my list of must-sees but certainly not least is the Scott Monument.  It stands 200 feet tall and is the tallest monument to a writer in the world!  Even better it has steps offering multiple views of the city all the way to the top!  Just to warn you it can get really tight on the spiral staircases and I am positive there are over 200 steps. The monument was built to commemorate one of Scotland's greatest novelists, Sir Walter Scott.  After visiting, I did some research on him and came across this interesting quote. 

"One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name." -Sir Walter Scott

This wraps up Edinburgh, I am sure I will be back again and with this finished, I need to start on the next post covering a road trip up to the incredibly beautiful Isle of Skye.  Please let me know what you think and tell me about your time in this incredible place.  I am always open to meet new people and hear others travel stories so send them over!  If you have reccomendations for the next time I am here send those as well, and as always if you want any prints or have any questions shoot me an email!

European Travels: Oxford, London, Manchester, Dover, Bath and more!

So I have been living in Europe / England for three months now!  With that I have noticed a fair few of the places I visit here really could never provide enough for a whole blog post.   Given that I have come up with the idea of loading up a highlight reel of the travels and shoots I do in a given month.  This will keep content on the blog steady with monthly posts as well as allow me to showcase some smaller day trips that I have been doing!  Bigger trips will still warrant their own posts so if you like that don't worry I will still be doing those as well.
 

I think I have visited London the most in the past few months, either to link up with friends for drinks, pick up camera gear, or to shoot the city.  Most of these shots were snapped down at the riverside near the Shard, probably one of the most photographed areas of London next to Big Ben.  I however did get some great shots of Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace while walking the streets on my first trip.

Something else I have spent a lot of time doing is sitting on trains and driving across the country.  Typically this can leave me pretty bored playing with the camera on the train or at the station.  Luckily with these shots I managed to capture something nice!  The image on the top left was snapped on my way into london, and the ones to the right and bottom left were captured traveling to Scotland out of Kings Cross.

I have noticed that London and european cities in general have a wild amount of street performance compared to most US cities.  It really helps bring the cities to life and can make walking around them so much more enjoyable so if you see them out there be sure to throw some change their way, some do it for fun and others rely on that small amount of income.  The top pano image is of a sand dog and its mastermind.  The man standing created a super realistic sculpture from sand right there on the street!  I almost didn't even realize it was not a real dog!  The bottom two images were snapped with the 135 but both are in the same band playing some really nice tunes in Piccadilly Circus.  So happy I was able to catch their gaze for a shot.

Another day trip to London for some Chipotle landed me this image.  It really is nothing special but I loved the messege the guy was trying to send, spending his day out standing next to a subway entrance holding this sign "you are beautiful".  A little bit can go a long way and in a world filled with negativity it was really nice to see someone spending their time reminding people to be a little more positive.  A lot of people coming into the station took notice of him and every time it instantly brought a smile to their faces.. 

Both the images below were captured near Carnaby.  Massive shopping area for sure and I really loved the big plaza that I managed to stumble into.  However some really good food and souvenirs can be had by staying out of the storefronts and having a chat with some of the local stands or trucks like the one pictured below.

Swapping locations to something a little more local to me, Oxford is one of the other places I keep going back to.  With the english weather it can be a bit hard to get stunning images in the city but I have managed a few pictured below.  The first image is of the Radcliffe Camera building.  Probably one of if not the most photographed buildings in Oxford but still a really cool building to check out while in the city.  Be sure to hit the Turf Tavern nearby if you can find it as well, it has quite a lot of history and is a great place for a pint.  Speaking of pints if you are looking to check out another old pub give The Bear Inn a go, and bring a tie.

If street photography Is your thing then I must say Oxford is a perfect place to spend a day.  Tons of beer gardens, alleys and people walking about to fill up a portfolio.  Grab your camera, some money and go out for a day shooting and drinking!  Most of the images were captured just wondering the streets however the top image was a planned stop, the dungeon / castle in Oxford is worth stopping by and does offer a nearby hilltop view of the town.  Also if you are looking to see some of oxfords many spires, take a walk over the The Varsity Club and grab a pint or cocktail on the roof!

Staying local and not far at all from Oxford is Blenheim Palace.  This 18th century palace built to celebrate the victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession has a lot to offer on its grounds.  You can also tour the inside of the palace but I have yet to take the time to do so even after two trips walking the large estate.  Something else to note is that the palace was the birthplace of Winston Churchill and the estate has more than a few monthly events always scheduled.  If you have not been down yet and live locally I really recommend it! 

The images below are all of just the palace its self.  The palace has more than a few courtyards, fountains, and small private gardens and is kept in wonderful condition.  The rear fountain area facing the pond is the best part of it all however.  With 5 massive fountains on the higher portion and even more on the lower end leading to the pond it really is amazing to take in.  Now as grand and beautiful as it is my favorite part of the area are the grounds themselves.

The grounds are massive and would be a wonderful place for a morning or afternoon jog.  Also rain or shine you can almost always find folks enjoying a nice picnic on the grass here.  The bridge from the palace to the victory pillar from across the pond is one of the better views in the area as well as the small waterfall and pump room at the very back.  I have yet to take my lee filters out for the waterfall or go inside the palace to do some interior work so this will for sure not be the last you see of this location from me.

Another amazing city I managed to visit in the past few months was Manchester!  The city has a lot going on and the cathedral was a real highlight as it was my first one ever stepping in.  It was shocking to see how well all the stained glass was kept and the ceilings have been an always impressive work of art.

Not to far off as the more modern shopping areas where I gave taco bell outside the US a try for the first time and picked up a pint glass at the hard rock for my growing collection.  I did manage to snag a few cool shots of the escalators, skylights and a popular intersection near the entrance to The Printworks.  I will say that the football museum was a pretty big let down though!

From The Printworks we headed off to the city council plaza where I managed one ok shot.  The plaza is rather large and expansive so it was pretty hard to capture.  We also tried to check out the library before heading through chinatown and hitting a park for golden hour.  I really love how well used the parks in Europe are, people actually go out and lay in the grass like it is a beach.  Reading, talking with friends, having a picnic or even napping you will always find folks using a cities parks in Europe.  The images pretty much go in order of how we traveled with the large circular building being the library.

The last stop in Manchester was to a more modern area of town down by the river called Media City and it is one area I can't wait to return to for sunset.  Media City and the Lowry Hotel are both on my list for my next trip up to the town as I didn't get enough of the area with these shots before time and light ran out!

My final places are Anyhoe, West Illsey, Dover, and Bath.  With Anyhoe and the shots of the country near West Illsey being small but very rewarding trips I am going to start with them before going on to the final two larger locations!  Anyhoe is a small english countryside town not even a 15 minute drive from my home.  But it does have Anyhoe park and some wonderful picturesque english countryside. 

I started this trip on the way to Banbury for some food but after driving through and spotting Anyhoe Park I decided to stop and ended up spending a few hours of my day there.  The large jacobean home is usually closed or gated up but do to a Ford event the grounds were open for exploration.  The home is absolutely breathtaking an absolute symbol of wealth and power without question.  The front features a large roundabout with the rear facing a large open yard.  I would happily spend a day capturing all of the crazy interior so if anyone wants to grant me a press pass reading this feel free!  After walking around the home for a few hours it was near sunset and I ended up running through town to get to a field full of sheep I had spotted on the drive in to capture the wonderful sunset you see at the very bottom.

Another day spent out capturing the english countryside lead me down to a small town called West Ilsley.  Besides grabbing a pint of cider at the pub the town didn't offer much but the rolling hills all around it were fantastic.

Next up is Dover!  Obviously the trip was planned to go capture the famous white cliffs.  However the city did have a bit more to offer and I will have to make a return trip to see the castle up close due to my arrival being a bit on the late side.  Although I did get to check out the Western Heights and capture a nice little landscape of the town from there before driving home.  Back to the cliffs though, they do not disappoint.  I was really worried that they would be full of people due to the fame they have acquired but that was not the case.  Walking the cliffs was one of the more calming trips I have taken around the UK and is extremely enjoyable.  I also managed to get really lucky with an amazing clear golden hour for my time there.

Last but certainly not least for this post is Bath!  I spent the entire day in this city and still could have found more things to love.  The river that runs right through it is absolutely stunning in some places.  The roman baths although crowded are still a very worth while experience to check out and will not disappoint.  I also recommend making the trek up to Alexandra Park for the amazing views of the city.  I really do wish I had not went hiking through the hills and had just stayed there for sunset as I ended up being in the wrong angle and to far from the city later.

Although the sunset shot did not turn out to be what I really wanted I did manage to capture these nice images of the countryside around Bath because I was scouting for a location to shoot the sunset from!

Well I apologize for the lengthy post and if you were hoping it would keep going on forever then I will see you back next month for The August images!  Travel will be a hair light this coming month due to the stolen camera scenario that lead to me swapping to the Fuji X system.  So far I am really happy with it and some of these images were captured with the Fuji if you can tell the difference I would be impressed!  If you do enjoy my work then do your part to help me keep traveling and give this post a share, like, retweet, review, offer up some comments or critisisms, tell your families, buy a print, donate some spare change do whatever you can!  Thank you again for stopping in, come back next month for more!

European Travels: A Trip To Italy

As some of you know I have moved across the world from Japan to Oxfordshire in England.  I am only two months into the three years I have to use and have already seen so much.  I can not wait to start sharing more of my travels with everyone but I did not want to start the new series with a smaller english town, I needed something big.  A week or two ago I took a two day trip from England and flew into Pisa.

 

The first thing I noticed was the pleasant weather but after that it was absolutely the change in architecture and style.  The whole city has a feel to it and sticks to a theme fairly well.  Bright colors, thin alleys hiding wonderful surprises, and shops tucked into every nook they can.  Italy felt very alive, everyone is out doing something or enjoying a drink at one of the many outdoor cafes.

 
 

After pulling some euros and stopping in a few places on the main roads we opted to dip down some smaller streets and catch a glimpse behind the scenes.  The tight roads had a really cool look to them and offered some interesting perspectives on the way to the leaning tower.

Now to talk about something else.  Pisa was a very cool city however the tower is a large tourist attraction.  Along with the crowds it doesn't help that the tower is all the city really has to offer, We spent about 3-4hrs taking itin before feeling like we had seen enough and got on the train to La Spezia.  It's also good to note that the food here didn't blow me away, it was good but with all the talk I did expect to be a bit more impressed.  It was sad to see that recent events have prompted some added security in the area as well even if it is warranted. 

 

I will say the people always seemed willing to help and were pleasant.  We met some awesome girls while waiting for the train to La Spezia who helped us make the right train, bumped into some cool taxi drivers near the tower, and plenty of the shop owners were open to conversation and knew enough english to get by.

The train took only about an hour and sadly with our timing we were on it for most of golden hour but it did offer some fantastic views of some distant mountains.  I never pictured Italy as hilly or mountainous before visiting but after the hikes between villages in Cinque Terre I won't be making that mistake again.

Once arriving in La Spezia we ran into some confusions.  With most of the trains done running and none of the cabs wanting to take us we opted to just walk to the first town in Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore.  This turned out to be a horrid idea and after an hours walk up the hills we found a restaurant who helped us out with a cab the rest of the way to town.  I did manage to get a little view of La Spezia at night before we loaded up however so the hike wasn't for nothing.

Once arriving in Riomaggiore the trip got a little wild.  Due to missing sunset we wanted to see sunrise and to avoid sleeping through it we told ourselves it would be a good idea to just see the towns at night and stay up till sunrise and get our sleep in on the flight back.  We stayed in Riomaggiore until about midnight walking around seeing the town and even at night it was something to take in.  

The towns pack down into these small little valleys right on the ocean.  While walking around we kept hearing some music and laughing coming from somewhere in the center of town and after some investigation figured out that the town has one or two bars that were basically the only things open.  Perfect!  We stopped in of course and got some light bakery snacks along with one of the strongest long island iced teas ever made.  We stuck around for about an hour, used the wifi to make some calls to folks back home and tell them what we were up to, and then headed out.  We decided if we were staying up we should hike over to the next town, however the usual coastal path was down so we would need to take an older route over the hills the bar tender had mentioned.

The hike was brutal but the views were incredible.  I would say it took us about two hours and most of that was spent sweating up the slope of the hill under the moonlight.  The moon was crystal clear over the ocean and at some point we stopped to take it all in for 10-20 minutes.  I will be returning to hike all the way up to the last town for sure.  After coming off the hill and snapping a few shots of the town from above we headed down to the port to get a nice image of that and set up for sunrise.

At this point in the night it was a good hour or two until the sun was going to come up and we were exhausted from a long day and the brutal hike into this new town of Manarola.  Some benches near where we were set up made for awesome nap spots and I am pretty sure both of us got in a little bit of shut eye before waking back up to see the sun come up.  Sunrise was sadly not amazing as the mountains block a lot of the light but we did catch some good colors behind us looking to the next town.

After sunrise we ran into a man from Colorado on his honeymoon and opted to go grab some coffee and much needed breakfast in town with him.  However it would be almost two more hours before a single shop opened in the town.  Apparently the folks in this little village don't like to wake up to early.  Eventually we found some food and took to exploring the town and all its glory in the sunshine before heading back to pisa for our flight out.  I honestly can not wait to head back and see the other towns and do the full hike.  Cinque Terre is a place I don't think I will ever forget even with how rough we made the two days there.

 
 

Photographing Taipei: Day 3


Day 3 started later than the others....  I had been up at the markets until pretty late the night before and when my alarm went off I stupidly assumed it would be kind of gloomy again for my last day.  When I stepped outside I was immediately angry with myself for letting hours of sunshine in Taipei go to waste but none the less booked it off to Longshan Temple in the southern part of the city.  The image you see above is the main area of that temple, it is fairly large and extremely well kept especially considering the massive amount of traffic in the area! 

The man here is actually pushing all the wax from the candles to the center to keep everything from overflowing.

The main entry to the temple, as shot from outside.

After walking around for some time and taking the whole place I headed outside for some more street work at a local market area and park near the temple.  Some of the people here are clearly struggling but for the most part seemed to be fairly content and happy.  Coming around with the camera brought a lot of smiles instead of the usual ducked heads and gloominess!

This man pulled up his truck to the street, grabbed his scale and started selling right there!

This was easily one of my favorite captures of the trip, the man seems so simple in the scene. like he just exists there without a care in the world even though somehow you can tell he is a man who has been through alot.

From here I headed out to 101 again, now that it was sunny I did not want to pass up an opportunity to go up to the top.  I stopped at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall on the way for a couple quick shots of the massive building on the way.  I actually ended up not loving any of the images from the top of 101 due to how high I was.  It was hard to capture something other than a snap shot because of the massive amount of city sprawled out before you at the top.  I can say that the worlds fastest elevator did impress though!  
 

The main hall for Sun Yat-Sen Memorial hall

I was going to try to squeeze in a ride on the infamous Maokong Gondola but ran out of time after 101 and decided I had to make the trip up elephant mountain for the sunset and night shots I had came to the city for.  All I have to say about that is if you come to Taipei, you must go up Elephant Mountain.

The  first bit of the trail sends you through a small park before leading you to the mountain path.  A fair warning the hike is steep and takes about 45 minutes bring a snack and some water!

Just started to get my first glimpses of Taipei before the first veiwpoint.

The amazing veiw from the first veiwpoint, and what would become my daytime shot of taipei.

Easily the best photo from the trip and one of the most amazing sunsets i have ever witnessed.  I also learned that taipei is fairly photography friendly, taking this shot i stood next to about 15 or so local photographers all coming up with various amounts of gear and all chatting each other up!

after soaking up that amazing sunset i decided to hang around and make a few local friends for the coming bar tours and snapped some more awesome shots of the skyline coming to life.

These last two images came to be the last great ones from my trip to Taipei, I personally love the couple sitting on the rock overlooking the city and after this me and my new friends headed down the mountain for some drinks at a couple bars.  I sadly had to awaken the next morning and hop on my plane back to Okinawa but I know for sure I will make a return trip to Taiwan for some more memories.
 

That is it for Taiwan! Please let me know what you think of my trip, my photos, and the blog in general!  This is my first time doing anything like this so any tips are appreciated and as always please share this content with everyone you know if you like it.  More followers means more interaction with you guys and possibly more travel!  I will continue to post about my travels in Okinawa and coming soon will be lots of content coming out of Europe!  If you have any questions about any of the images, how to get to any of the places I photographed or even about what gear I used feel free to ask away!  I hope you enjoyed looking through these photos, Have a great rest of your day!

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Photographing Taipei: Day 2


What you are looking at above is the first 5 minutes of what came to be a very awesome day two in Taipei.  As you can see the weather was still no cooperating but I would not let that stop me and shot out of bed bright and early to hit some temples and markets before heading down to one of the cities biggest icons, Taipei 101.  I stepped out of the hotel and right then started to take the city in on my walk to the Taipei Confucius Temple.

Something a lot of people fail to notice about the entrances and exits to a cities metros is that when looked at more deeply or in the right angles they really start to convey their purpose.  These places serve as gateways to the city for so many people everyday.  I hope this shot can be a reminder to slow down and notice the small things in your own cities once in a while.

When I arrived in the area of the Taipei Confucius Temple I actually mixed temples up and the one you see above is the first I visited, Dalongdong Baoan Temple.  The area had a couple surrounding shrines for various deities and was very well kept. Something also to be noted is that the areas are still very much in use daily by the local populace and some tourists wishing to try the rituals.  Almost all the temples I visited featured amazing detail and color, with lavish interiors.  When considering the age of some of the structures it really is leveling to think about how some things have been kept so nice or were ever constructed in the first place.

The Inside of the main hall at Dalongdong Baoan Temple.

Paper lanterns pictured here at the front of the main hall are also a very common theme in Taipei not just at the temples but also around the city and in the markets.

A somewhat different perspective on some of the details on the temples.

Next up came the Taipei Confucius Temple I had originally traveled to see.  I learned that the shrine was actually for teachers from some locals at the location and although it was not as populated with people it still did not disappoint.  The temple featured a couple structures but really shines at the main hall pictured below.  

If you were not able to catch some of the smaller details in that first photo have a look at a more closer angle with these photos.

After wondering the temples for an hour or two I started to get hungry.  My next stop would be a nearby market that I kept spotting signs for, let me start by saying the street food did not disappoint and the people were very welcoming and kind. Even more so the area provided an amazing opportunity for street photography.  Honestly Taipei has convinced me I need to give street photography a bit more time in my life, I really enjoyed it while in the city.  I must have spent at least an hour walking up and down the street looking at the daily life in the markets.  Trying different foods, talking to various vendors, and shooting some crazy characters I really made an event of it all.  I really hope the photos below can help to convey what it was like walking down the market street that day.

On my travels through the streets I could not help but notice the massive amount of moped and bikes getting the locals around.  It seems to be a rather efficient way to travel in the area.

After finishing up my surprisingly awesome time at the local market I headed over to another popular temple on the north side of town called Hsing Tian Kong.  The temple was extremely popular at least when I showed up and featured a totally different style of doing things than the others.  People would gather and have smoke wafted around them while also praying out to the walls where many sat with books.  It also featured some fairly awesome bright red doors with yellow knobs that still stand out to me.

A shot taken inside near the walls, notice the people far left in the shot standing in the middle praying out in the direction of the walls.

Next on the days agenda came the highlight for most peoples trip, Taipei 101.  When exiting the station under 101 you are greeted with the view below.  The structure is truly a feat of engineering and is staggeringly massive in size, you can even see the clouds dragging off of it in the photo below.  Due to the weather I did not go up the record breaking elevator to the top this day but I can tell you that it is worth the trip and the wait if there is one.  The view from the top is impressive,  The photos I took on day three from the top capture so much that they are uninteresting and come off as snapshots due to the massive amount of city covered in a single shot.  Just because it was a clouded rainy day did not mean that 101 had nothing to offer however, the building still features a 7 story shopping mall and massive food court to boot.  This building goes on my must see list for any travelers reading this for help planning our trip,  rain or shine 101 is a must.

After stuffing myself at the food court I headed over to witness the changing of the guard ceremony at one of the memorial halls.  That event goes on the must see list as well, being a service member I gained a lot of respect for the men standing guard up there.  In the photo you can see the sweat streaming down his face from standing like a statue for over an hour, and the change over was no joke either.

Look at those beads of sweat!  Dedication!

Next up after this I went back to the hotel to charge up my batteries for a night in Shilin Night Market.  The area was three or four times the size of the first market above, had some amazing places to eat (Hot Star Chicken is a must!) and again provided a hot bed for street photography.  I finished my night up at a bar in the city after this and actually made friends with a local waiter named Billy Yin that night before turning in to hit the city hard for one last day.

Lanterns covering the ceiling of a temple in the market. 

That is it for day two please have a wonderful evening and come back very soon for days two and three in Taipei.  Please leave any questions in the comments or contact me directly.  If you liked the photos or the story please share them on your favorite sites or with your friends!

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Photographing Taipei: Day 1


My Journey into Taiwan from the lovely Ryukyu started with a lesson.  When dealing with budget airlines don't be even a minute late.  I strolled into the airport ready to roll and start my 3 day adventure into Taipei.  However when going to check in for my flight I discovered the counters had been closed and no deals would be made to get me on the flight!  Being just 1 minute late I was a little heated and this is actually one of the few times I have missed a flight. After a moment or two and so many close calls I took it as a hard travel lesson and moved on though.  It is important not to let the hiccups spoil the whole trip, after all we go on vacations to enjoy our selves not to be stressed.

After arriving into Taiwan I was instantly surprised to find another hiccup.  I was an hour outside the city and had landed in a different airport due to the flight change!  Luckily with Taiwan being a wonderful destination that seems to strive on a bit of tourism I was soon able to find that a bus into Taipei that would cost me next to nothing!  As a nice plus I was able to meet some cool folks on the bus before continuing on to my hostel in the middle of the city for check in.  If you don't mind I have to name drop them because I actually lost a couple hours sitting in the lobby chatting up the awesome hosts Kevin and Kimber for stories and information.  If you find yourself in need of a clean and cheap place to stay that has good security feel free to find your way over to the Packer's Hostel, I will provide their website at the bottom of this post!

After talking my hosts up a bit I headed to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.  By now it was dark and unfortunately the weather was not in my favor either but that did not stop me from going out to see the city.  One of the first things I noticed on my walk over was that some of the roundabouts in Taipei have this temples setup in the middle that when combined with the traffic like you see above make for an awesome shot.  I also noticed upon arrival at the memorial that the monuments in this city are massive.  The area called Liberty Square has the massive archway that acts as an entry to the couple hundred meter long space featuring the Concert Hall, Chaing Kai-Shek Memorial, and the Theatre.  The area was well used by the local populace for dancing and as a general hangout for younger people when I stopped by.

One of the Entrances to the square, notice how small the people are in comparison at the base of the structure. 

The National Theatre sits to the left of the Arch and features immense details.

Sitting directly across from the Theatre is the Concert Hall.

Right in line with the Arch and at the end of a long plaza stands the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in all its glory.

After strolling the grounds of the square for some time and battling the rain I decided it was time to depart and head for Ximending, a more hip and younger part of the city featuring an almost Shibuya feel with lots of shops and places to eat.  When I arrived in the area it immediately stood out.  The buildings were plastered with adds, there was a massive amount of lighting and young 20 somethings ran from store to store cramming in the last minutes of shopping for the night. This was very different from the city I had just walked through to get here, no empty streets or dark alleys with beef noodle shops like you see below.

No more of the above, Ximending had tons of shops to see, large department stores and plenty to eat.  It was here I saw my first 4 story KFC and a really crazy place called the Modern Toilet, a restaurant where everything is of the bathroom variety down to even the smallest details.  If you go to Taipei you must stop in and have a meal there.  Ximending ended up not really being my style but still had its own flare and was a joy to photograph.  I called it a night after the photos below and hit the hay early to wake up early for day two.

 

Click here for day two

That wraps up day one of my travels, come back very soon for days two and three in Taipei.  Please leave any questions in the comments or contact me directly.  Have a great rest of your day!

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Give the folks over at The Packer's Hostel a look if looking for a place to stay in Taipei!

http://www.thepackershostel.com/