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Svartifoss And Beyond by Alpha Whiskey Photography

So I still have some shots from my Iceland trip to rifle through. It was a pretty long 8 days. These are mainly from in and around, and after, the Skaftafell National Park in the south.I mainly wanted to capture the Svartifoss waterfalls, bracketed by dark lava columns, but hadn't realised it was a bit of an uphill trek to get there. Nevertheless, I persevered and found some other picturesque waterfalls en route. Views from the hillside were also rather special, and would have been more so... 
but for the descending cloud. Later in the day, as the light waned, I looked for the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. As is inevitable in Iceland, I stopped en route to capture yet another scenic waterfall and set of rapids. By the time I had found the canyon darkness had all but set in so it took some manual focusing and long exposures to bring them out into the light. Everything was shot with the Olympus E-M5 and mainly the 12-40mm F/2.8.

Capturing The Toronto Skyline by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Ok, so I know there's a lot of shots of the skyline here and it goes without saying that I was somewhat enamoured, not just with the skyline itself, but also with the experience of shooting it. These shots are intended to show the beauty of the skyline over the course of the 75 minutes I spent shooting it, in changing light and positions. Reflections in the water and the colour of the sky varied over the course of that time owing to both the stillness of the water, the presence of mist and... 
the changing light through twilight to dusk. My original plan was to shoot it from Polson Street but at the last minute I changed my mind and took a ferry to the Toronto Islands. I timed my arrival to be before sunset so that I would have the time to set up and get the shots I wanted. I found myself completely alone on the shore of one of the smaller islands; just myself and my tripod and camera. The solitude and silence, but for the water lapping at the shore, was a truly serene experience. Before sunset there was too much light for a long exposure so I attached a 10 stop ND grad filter to my lens. This enabled me to use a slower shutter speed without resorting to too narrow an aperture where diffraction would kick in. I also set the ISO to the default 200. As the light waned I removed the filter and was still able to use slower shutter speeds. The cloud cover precluded either a rich sunset or my preferred cobalt blue dusk but there emerged instead a pleasing fusion or magenta and pink clouds against the bluish dusk sky. I was soon able to resort to using the LIVE TIME feature on my Olympus, a great way of seeing the exposure progress and enabling one to stop it at any time. The Anit-Shock feature (1 second delay) was also engaged to prevent movement from depression of the shutter button. My preference when shooting city lights is always to err on the side of slight over exposure, just to catch a little more dazzle. Highlights can always be toned down in post. In the water in front of me was bench (I didn't put it there!) that I used in a few shots as a focal point in the composition, particularly to slow the movement of water around it and achieve a more ethereal look. Eventually the dusk blue surrendered to the black of night, although the city lights in the skyline still created a haze of red and yellow colour around them.Some images were taken from the ferry and also from Casa Loma but most were shot from the islands. These were all shot with either the Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8 or 40-150mm F/2.8 on the EM-5 body. Some of the images may seem a little bright and colourful but to me the beauty of a skyline is in its vivid colour and light against the sky. And my postcard style always calls for a little 'pop'. 

Postcards From Snowdonia by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Well, not really postcards since the inclement weather didn't allow for the most picturesque shots but I did what I could in the brief time that I drove around this spectacular part of the country. Visiting friends was my primary objective during the Easter weekend and with that accomplished I decided to navigate my way through Snowdonia National Park, an understandably popular and stunning part of Wales. Having lived in Wales for a time it is a beloved second home to me and after they put... 
Alpha Whiskey out to pasture (not long now) I hope they sprinkle my ashes liberally over this magnificent land of the red dragon. Thus this excursion was really about the photos but to soak in, enjoy and experience the environment. My friend Natalia accompanied me and we started our journey with a stay at the grand Castle Deudraeth next to the colourful town of Portmeirion. A vibrant, if slightly surreal place Portmeirion as designed and built by Sir Clough William-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village. A walk through the surrounding woods and along the beach treated us to some pleasing views.The following day, besieged with rain and mist, Natalia suggested we do what any sensible person would do in those conditions; hike up a mountain. After wandering through the Mawddwy valley we found ourselves at the foot of Cadair Idris. The late Sir George Mallory (who died on Mount Everest) said that the best reason to climb a mountain is because it is there. And while Cadair Idris is no Everest it was only courteous to accept her invitation to ascend her steep, stepped incline into the dense shroud of mist above. Our hike rewarded us with waterfalls rushing down through her wooded aspect until we finally reached Llyn Cau, the canopy of mist nestled within her crater just floating up in time for our arrival. Some food and rest later we picked the coastal town of Criccieth to see at dusk, with its beach leading the eye to her castle ruins atop a hill.The last day time was on a budget so we judiciously picked a few scenic views to take in. A quick stop at the small village of Beddgelert was a prelude to a drive though Snowdonia, viewing Llyn Gwynant from the mountain side before finding the beautiful Swallow Falls by the side of the road. Speaking of roads, Wales has the best I've experienced  this side of the Isle Of Man and it was a real pleasure to drive along her undulating hills and valleys, often completely alone for miles on end but for the ubiquitous sheep. In many ways, with it numerous waterfalls and glacial valleys and lakes, it reminded me of Iceland. We finally made our way to Llyn Padarn, our satnav taking us on a rather agricultural route through skeletal tracks but offering up some terrific viewpoints. Before the obligatory sunset shot over the lake we stopped at the eerie Vivian Quarry, now an apparent training facility for divers. It was, of course, wonderful seeing and reminiscing with old friends and as ever I am grateful for their warmth, hospitality and love. I am also extremely grateful to the group of drivers in customised racers who stopped to pull Alpha Whiskey's car out of a hole. Without their miraculous help I would probably sill be there now. Well, I hope these images offer a fleeting glimpse of this wonderful place and prove that one doesn't need to travel far to see great beauty on this planet. I hope to revisit Snowdonia again with more time to capture more of it. All images processed to my taste and shot with Olympus gear. 

Ripley's Aquarium Of Canada by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Bit of a soft spot for aquaria, I must admit, and Ripley's in Toronto certainly didn't disappoint. Undoubtedly more popular with the kids this is nevertheless rightfully a major attraction of the city. I wasn't expecting to spend very long here but the sheer number of sharks, turtles and rays floating by overhead ignited the wonder from my inner child and I spent a good while in the tunnel mesmerised by the aquatic life. I even managed to get a crustacean manicure at the end. With a huge... 
variety of marine species it's a great place to capture some colourful images. I used both Olympus lenses and the Samyang 7.5mm F/3.5 fisheye, which enabled me to capture the wide shots of people gawking at the sharks overhead.Almost all shot at ISO 1600 on the E-M5 and processed to my postcard style. Enjoy.  

Biking, Buddhas, Boats in Beautiful Bagan and Inle... by blissfulwanderlust

After having just returned from an adventurous week in Myanmar, I feel completely grounded and connected. It's amazing what a week can do for the mind, body and soul. I spent the majority of my time alone and found myself, more often than not, quiet and not having uttered a word throughout the entire day. I started my trip with a quick stop over in Yangon, before catching a flight on Air KBZ to Bagan. When I arrived in Bagan, there really wasn't much to see, until I got to the resort (that... 
my friend highly recommended) and rented a motorbike right-a-way! It was around $5USD for all day use. What a bargain! So, I grabbed a map (who uses those in this day in age), and began exploring. About 1 minute down the road, I saw my first Pagoda. It was brick, crumbly and beautiful. I continued on for a few more minutes, and began to notice all these turn offs on the road, so I took one. Endless Pagodas...for as far as the flat land you could see! The dirt and dust was plenty, as was the opportunity to take photographs. Being on a motorbike made this task quite laborious, and it was too hot to get off and walk the far distances between each cluster of Pagodas, so I stopped and started, over and over again, sometimes getting stuck in the deep sand (grateful for all that snow in New England...I rocked the bike back and forth eventually getting it un-stuck!). Time and time again, the photo opportunities were endless. I found myself wanting, needing, begging for a wide angle lens to catch all the beauty inside the ever so tiny pagodas that I was visiting. The Buddha, the writing on the wall, the crumbing brick...it was all so much to take in at once. After having explored all afternoon, I settled in for dinner at the hotel. It was a long first day and I still had 2 full days ahead of me. What to explore next? Well, the three days that I spent wandering around Bagan landed me at a local's house with my face being painted, a run through the pagodas at sunset, eating at a local "Be Kind To Animals" lunch and dinner spot with cheap and delicious food, and a pool that I could relax at and actually finish the book that I had started on the plane "Into Thin Air", which connected me to another place that is so very special to me, Nepal. I hopped another quick Air KBZ flight to Heho, which is where you will find Inle Lake. The resort I stayed at came highly recommended, and it was just awesome. Sanctum Isle Resort knows how to take care of their guests.  Their first suggestion was that I take one of their bikes down to the foot bridge and take a tour on one of the "kayaks" in the village. I did just that. One of my favorite memories of my time at Inle Lake. This older woman sat quietly, while a younger boy talked to me in his very good English about all that Inle Lake had to offer. He told me about life on the lake, and how everyone had electricity and even TV! He told me that the water level was low and that during the rainy season, their floating tomato gardens grow quickly. He explained how they carved out boats and that people who live on stilted houses over the water, are a different "people" than the people who live in the hills. "We don't mix" he told me. Once I got on the boat with the old woman, she paddled away, at a snail's pace passing a man lost among the bamboo, a woman doing her laundry in the lake, a child looking on from the window above. Young boys transporting the most beautiful dark, moist soil, that I have ever seen, women working int he tomato fields from their canoes. Everyone was working. The village was quiet, calm and peaceful...making it almost mysterious. The sun was blazing down from high in the sky, as canoes floated by gently knocking into each other, a soft smile and wave would be exchanged by fellow villagers...After my time first day in Inle, I awoke to the beautiful sound of birds and was surprised by an absolutely amazing breakfast at the resort before I hopped another boat to tour the vastness of the pristine lake below! I found myself wanting to share in the experience with someone. A partner. Friend. Relative. Someone to talk to...but there was nobody. It is difficult to travel alone sometimes, "Will anyone else be joining you this evening?" that I heard day after day, meal after meal...it wears on you after a while. Then, you realize that you are not alone. You might be traveling alone, but you are surrounded by smiles, fresh air, mother earth and all it has to offer. You appreciate more than just good conversation. You begin to notice the world around you. You actually do stop and smell the roses, because what else is there to do. One of my most favorite memories in Inle Lake was when I took one of the resort bikes out for a spin. I began peddling up a big hill toward a massively huge pagoda, and along the way down, I saw a girl trying to get her bicycle with training wheels going. She was trying to go up hill and wasn't getting very far. Naturally, I grabbed my camera, because what is sweeter than a little girl on her bicycle. She kept trying, and I kept shooting. When the thought passed my mind, "I should help her"...I did just that. I saw her dad upstairs in the window smiling down, and I gestured toward him to see if it was okay to push her up the hill. He nodded and I crossed the street. I put my hand on the back of the seat, and one on the handlebars, smiling at the little girl, I began to push. Just like my dad did when I was her age. We went up the hill a ways and then back down. The little girl didn't smile, until after I had crossed back to my own bike and we connected eyes. I waved goodbye to her and her dad, both with grins ear to ear, put my sunglasses over my eyes and began to cry. I cried all the way down the hill and back to the resort, wondering if it would ever be me, with my own child...

Niagara Falls by Alpha Whiskey Photography

While there is plenty to post from around various places I visited in Toronto I figured Niagara Falls was probably a more well known landmark and thus decided to post images from there first. A 1 hour and 45 minute coach ride from Toronto, I spent the better part of a day here. Despite being in the winter season (before April) there was still plenty to see and do. I took a helicopter ride first, which while brief, gave me a great view of the falls and the first five shots you see here.... 
Thereafter, rather than go straight down to the falls I visited the Butterfly Conservancy to the north of the Niagara Parkway. Shots from there will be on a separate post.The WeGo settle bus service efficiently delivered me around the park and took me down to the falls for the afternoon. The Falls include the smaller American Falls, flowing over the America side of the Niagara River, and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls at the end. I was told by friends that the views are better from the Canadian side and I believe that to be true. I have to say that I have seen many more spectacular waterfalls than Niagara, such as Iguacu, and take your pick of any in Iceland, but I suppose Niagara is most famous due to its accessibility. Nevertheless, I wasn't especially wowed or overwhelmed but I did try to capture the falls in a variety of ways and in different lights. The Hornblower Boat Cruise into the falls was not available in March, but I had taken a similar ride into Iguacu so it wasn't a deal-breaker for me. Instead I ventured upwards into the Skylon Tower's observation deck to see the Falls from a height. Well, I hope the images provide a glimpse into this famous landmark and now I can certainly tick it off my bucket list. Each image was processed individually and to my postcard style. I found that capturing birds in flight in front of the waterfall provided a sense of its magnitude. Slow shutter speeds were achieved using ND Grad filters. All images were shot with the Olympus E-M5 and a variety of lenses. 

Postcards From Toronto by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Admittedly not a city high on my list to visit but the opportunity presented itself and it was a chance to see Niagara Falls too. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that Toronto was a charming metropolis with plenty to see, do and discover.Inclement weather on my first day ushered me from my base at Trump International Tower to the Art Gallery Ontario, an abundant collection of both classic and contemporary art, with paintings, sculptures an even a model ship collection. The Museum... 
subway stopped, lined with fantastic pillars carved as ancient Egyptian figures and creatures, led me up to the Royal Ontario Museum, something akin to a natural history museum albeit with collections of oriental art and pottery.Still trying to evade the rain I hurried down to Ripley's Aquarium, where an underwater tunnel resurrected my inner child as I marvelled in wonder at the fearsome sharks floating above me. And to say nothing, of course, of the copious other exotic species, particularly the luminescent jellyfish.The evening cleared up enough to take the ferry to Ward's Island (the only Toronto Island venue on the winter schedule) from where I walked to Snake Island and enjoyed total solitude as I photographed the colourful city skyline. Not a soul found or bothered me as I waited for sunset to flirt with dusk. The following day I ventured up to Casa Loma, apparently North America's only castle. It's a beautiful stately home, built by Sir Heny Pellat, reminiscent of properties managed by the National Trust. Ornate rooms and furnishings area prelude to a collection of classic cars, and high turrets offer terrific views of downtown Toronto. Unsurprising that it has been used as a location for several films such as X-Men and Chicago.Spending the day downtown in the shadow of towering skyscrapers it is easy to see why Toronto doubles as New York and Chicago in many a film and television show. From Yonge-Dundas Square down to Nathan Philips Square and City Hall, I shuffled past the Old City Hall building and towards the Gooderham Building. En route I found the Cathedral Church Of St James, a modest example of Gothic architecture with an equally modest interior. Further on St Lawrence Market hosted some colourful delicatessens and charcuterie.A determined walk further on brought me to the Old Distillery District, once the largest distillery in the world and now converted into quirky bars, shops and restaurants. Finally I ascended the mighty CN Tower, from where I enjoyed the view beneath my feet on the glass floor, as well as magnificent city skyline. On my last day, when the weather was at its best, I journeyed down to Niagara Falls. I shall post images from that day separately but I started the day with a helicopter ride and a visit to the Butterfly Conservancy before enjoying the falls. All in all, a trip that went exactly to plan and an experience made all the more enjoyable by the hospitality of the people there. Canadians thoroughly deserve their global reputation for being incredibly friendly, helpful and polite. They have my sincere gratitude. As usual, everything was processed in my usual postcard style and shot with Olympus equipment. 

365 Project - March Highlights by Sandra5

March brought pretty nice weather so me and my camera spent more time outside. I needed to finish the project for the exhibition, so the first part of the month was mostly about that. The rest of the pictures were really about me having something to add to the album every day, although there were some interesting situations.After the exhibition was finally opened, the tension dropped and I was free again to do what I feel like. I spent a few days shooting outside just for my own pleasure.... 
Weather was great and the city life became more dynamic. I met a lot of birds and street cats. But although photographing was really inspired and replenishing at times, I started noticing I'm doing same kinds of things over and over. To really make a progress, I feel I need to break this pattern and add something new. Doing the same things for another month really sounds unexciting. On the positive side, I only skipped one day, which means I nearly managed to capture the whole month and March was one very long month.

365 Project - February Highlights by Sandra5

February was slow and cold. Most of the pictures were taken inside and quite a big fraction of them was at home. But at the end of the month the weather was improving and the days became longer, so I slowly started to turn my attention outside.The photography workshop I participate in was preparing an exhibition in March and I needed to finish a project for that too. The given topic was "My day" and I had really a hard time with it. I wanted to find out what my day is all about. And also to find the best way to present that. I had several ideas for the project, but none of them worked out. Nevertheless, exploring this subject gave some interesting and unexpected results.

365 Project - January Highlights by Sandra5

After a friend challenged me (Thanks, T!) I decided to give this project a try, although I didn't see the point of shooting every day. I also bought a new camera a few days before New Year so I began the project the day my camera arrived. I skipped a few days (5 actually) but I decided to not make a drama and keep shooting until I collect 365 images. It will probably take more than a year, but who cares, really?The winter was cold so there were days I was stuck in the house, but on the other... 
side it was the holiday season so I could easily find something interesting to photograph. It was challenging to find a shot every day, especially on those days when I had a cold or work. Looking at my pictures now in an album, my life looks more interesting then I thought it will look. I was tempted to carry my camera with me everywhere so I wouldn't end up searching for something to shoot around the house at a few minutes till midnight.

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