What’s the Price of Peace of Mind?

What’s the price of peace of mind?

 

This is a very real question when you travel as often as I do. I’m sent to far-flung

destinations for a living, and while I travel well and I travel as safe as I can, now and

again I find myself wondering how I’d react in a real emergency; what would I do if

a grizzly bear mistook my melon for a honeypot while trekking through Alberta’s

remote wilderness? How would I get home if I were stung on the face by a snake in

the red center of Australia? How would I get emergency care if a raging bull did a

number on my questionable bits while running through the streets of Pamplona?

These are the questions that trouble my simple mind.

 

Enter MedjetAssist and what amounts to the world’s greatest peace of mind

program for travelers. A global air medical transport membership program,

MedjetAssist offers members medical transport services in the event of an

emergency – and allows members to choose exactly which hospital they’d like to be

delivered to in their home country. So if you’re particularly fond of a nurse on the

third floor of your home hospital’s trauma wing, or you feel quite attached to the

transesophageal echocardiogram equipment in your local cardiologist’s office, you

can have your cake, and eat it too.

 

I would never think of leaving home without comprehensive insurance on my

photography equipment, so it only makes sense that I have spectacular protection

for the gear that really counts. MedjetAssist is the perfect program for me because it

allows me to go at my work – and my travels – without making compromises based

on what could be suspect local medical care and conditions. With MedjetAssist, my

own hometown care is never more than a phone call away, and I like that.

 

Program membership comes with additional benefits. I have access to Travel,

Health & Security Precautions for International Destinations, Visa, Passport &

Immunization Requirements, telephone interpretation and medical referrals.

 

MedjetAssist is a comprehensive medical transport membership program in

an affordable package – and a small price to pay for peace of mind. Short-Term

memberships start at $99 and $260 for annual.

Rise With The Rock

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95% of visitor’s to Australia’s Northern Territory and the Outback come to see Uluru – otherwise known as Ayers Rock. The rest? They come for the camels. Or the snakes. Or the red sand.

The Down and Dirty:

If you’re a fan of long-exposure photography but never knew where to begin – if the process of setting up and shooting such an image has ever seemed intimidating – this walkthrough should please you. It’s deceptively simple to put together a frame like this, and if you follow these steps, you’ll be out the door and firing away in no time.

The first thing to consider when planning a long-exposure image is just what you want the final frame to look like. Take a look at your scene; are the clouds moving quickly? Do you have have running water somewhere in the frame? If the answer is yes, a long-exposure image should be able to lend a feeling of motion to your photograph. But also keep in mind elements that can become distracting. Do you have trees, grass, or other foliage in the frame that can be affected by the wind? If the answer is yes, then there’s the potential to add distracting blur with a long exposure.

The morning I shot this image of Uluru was perfectly still; there was no risk of adding blur to the trees and brush, so my only real variable were the clouds. I began this exposure just as the sun was rolling over the horizon (out of frame, to the right) and continued on through for 145 seconds; I knew this would allow the clouds time to streak across the sky. How did I know this? I started the timer on my phone, looked up, and watched how far the clouds went in 15 seconds, then guessed at how quickly they’d move across my entire frame. Not an exact scientific measure by any means, but I usually shoot on emotion and intuition, so I had a good feeling that this would yield the results I was after.

Now, if you’ve done any sort of long-exposure work on an DSLR in the past, you know that most cameras can’t go past the 30 second exposure limit without a timer; you could easily pull off this same shot with a simple cable release, but I prefer to do all of my timed work with a Trigger Trap Mobile Dongle + App; this bit of kit is invaluable for long-exposure photography, and is my go-to gear for star trails, bramping, timelapse video, and more. Now, knowing that your camera can only make an exposure reading for a maximum of 30 seconds, you need a way to exposure properly for anything longer than that. You don’t want to guess at correct exposure when shooting for 3, 5, or 10 minutes at a time – that’s a long time to wait while you goof up an image, especially when good light is so fleeting. A bit of rudimentary math will help you out in this scenario.

First reading: At an aperture of f/4 and ISO of 200, my exposure is 30 seconds.

I use a large aperture for my first reading so that my exposure times aren’t crazy long – this allows me to take a quick test frame to see what my light is going to look at.

Second reading: At an aperture of f/8 and ISO of 200, my exposure is 60 seconds.

I doubled the aperture, which automatically doubled the length of time the shutter needed to be open. You can see just how easy this is.

Third reading:  At an aperture of f/18 and ISO of 50, my final exposure is 145 seconds.

I rolled the aperture to f/18 to ensure sharpness throughout the frame, tweaked my ISO just a touch (I wanted to be a little darker than the “proper” exposure reading so I didn’t blow out the sun) and was left with an exposure length of 145 seconds.

Step by Step:

1. Compose your scene. Lock in the “look” before you start fiddling around with exposure, timers, etc. so that you can be confident you’re going to get the image you want. Oh, and make sure you’re set up on a sturdy tripod.

2. Lock your focus; I focus these scenes manually (I often do this in Live View and “peak” to ensure pinpoint accuracy).

3. Set your exposure length via your timer (buy yourself a Trigger Trap. It will change the way you do this sort of work).

4. Open the shutter, and relax. Grab a coffee and marvel at your surroundings. Do what you do with time to kill in one of the world’s most beautiful places.

Image Specs:

Camera: Nikon D800

Lens: Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8

Aperture: f/18

ISO: 50

Shutter Speed: 145 seconds

Focal Length: 24mm

For the Making of:

1. Nikon D800 Camera

2. Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens

3. 77mm B+W Kaesemann XS-Pro Circular Polarizer

4. Trigger Trap Mobile Dongle + App

5. Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod

Special Thanks:

Special thanks to my friends at AFAR Magazine, USTOA, and Goway Travel for sending me on an incredible assignment out into Australia’s Northern Territory. Australia had been at the top of my bucket list for years, and it was even more incredible than I could have imagined.

Catch up with me on Twitter: @FlashParker

Follow my photography adventures on Instagram: FlashParker

The Cowboy Poet’s Way

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A bit of background on the image, as originally posted for AFAR:

For the Rhythm of Cowboy Poetry

The Bar U Ranch had a hand (and a hoof, and a horseshoe) in shaping life in Western Canada, and today is preserved as a national historic site packed with interactive exhibits, immersive educational programs, and more. If you’re lucky, your visit may coincide with the famed Bar U Chuckwagon Cook-Off (annual, first weekend in June), and you and your posse will get a chance to taste a bit of the Wild West.

And don’t forget to actually enter the historic buildings (they’re not just for show), many of which are manned by period players fully dedicated to bringing the Bar U Experience to life. What looks, feels, and smells like a leather shop is actually the domain of the Bar U’s poet cowboy, and if you’re lucky, and if you’re polite, he might just recite one of his original elegies for you and your crew.

The Down and Dirty:

If this were a commercial shoot, and my one and only goal was to come back home with a brilliant portrait of the Cowboy Poet in his studio, I wouldn’t have left light to chance – I would have arrived at the Bar U Ranch with a bag full of lights, modifiers, and other lighting gear. But Bar U was just one stop on a jam-packed itinerary, and I had roughly five minutes to get in, shoot a portrait worthy of printing, and move on to the next stop. I lucked out with the way that the light came streaming in the window (left of frame), but had only seconds to recognize how that light was mixing with the ambient leaking in to the rest of the frame, and how it would look on the cowboy’s face and clothing.

If I had let the camera think for me, this would have been a mess. The camera would have tried to even out the light throughout the scene, and would have pushed the exposure high enough to brighten the background – in the process this would have blown out the delicate highlights on the face, hands, and hat. Because I was shooting in Aperture Priority – in order to control my depth of field, of course – I quickly had to roll my exposure compensation dial back –.07 of a stop (three clicks) in order to bring the exposure back down to earth. This may not seem like a lot, but it’s a big deal when dealing with lighting extremes. I also touched up my focus manually here; even when you place your Auto Focus cursor over what you think is your subject’s face, the camera can, when the lighting is tough, hunt for contrast – in this case, it hunted for the hat, which popped against the dark background. Had the brim of the hat been in focus, the eyes, at F/4, would not have been as sharp as I needed them to be.

I also recognized that even with bright light on my subject, this scene was still rather dark; I had to push my ISO all the way to 1000 just to get a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second. This was a bit of a gamble considering the cowboy poet was moving quite a bit, but I managed to freeze him decently well.

Image specs:

Camera: Nikon D800

Lens: Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8

Aperture: f/4    

ISO: 1000    

Shutter speed: 1/30    

Focal Length: 42mm

 

Special Thanks:

Special thanks to my friends at AFAR Magazine and Travel Alberta for sending me on an incredible assignment in the Great White North. It’s always good to go home. I’ve collected a few of my favorite highlights into an AFAR Wanderlist that you can see here: The Great Canadian Grizzly Odyssey.

Catch up with me on twitter: @FlashParker and instagram: FlashParker

Lonely Planet Magazine: Spanish Flavours

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My latest feature for Lonely Planet Magazine – a road trip story about the sights, sounds and tastes from Barcelona in the East to Santiago in the West, and all the northern coastal highlights in between.

“The problem with Spain is that Hemingway didn’t write about enough of it. Had the old man from the sea done more than romanticize the bulls of Pamplona and Ronda, tip over barstools from one corner of Madrid to the other, and immortalize travel in the south the South during his lifelong trysts with transnationalization, perhaps more of this beautiful country would exist at the forefront of the wayfaring traveler’s imagination. Yet Hemingway spent a finite number of days in Spain, and missed out on many of its essential experiences that have remained on the margins of bucket lists since Papa passed away. Spain’s Northern provinces in particular, with their tremendous natural attractions, historical cache, and gastro marvels, may inspire you to write volumes of prose all your own (if you can put down the tapas plates and wine glasses long enough to pick up a pencil and paper), while Barcelona, at the heart of Catalonia, has more cultural, culinary, and aesthetic charms than most other countries. Spain’s intoxicating diversity is exemplified on a trip from Catalonia to Galicia, with diversions through Basque Country and Cantabria along the way. “

Click through for larger images.

All images shot with Nikon D800 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

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Catch up with me on twitter: @FlashParker and instagram: FlashParker

Tierra Story

Chile_74003 From the pool at the Tierra Atacama: you want to be here, now. Trust me.

If you’re keen on checking out two of the most spectacular locations on earth (hint: you 100% are), check out this contest being put on by the Tierra Hotels group. www.tierrastory.com

The concept is simple:

“At Tierra Hotels, we love hearing travel stories. Share yours and win a 3-day trip to Chile at one of our hotels.

Facebook: Post on our Facebook wall one of your stories from around the world (Could be anywhere and any story!) + photo, add #travelstory #tierrahotels.

Twitter: Write a tweet with one of your stories from around the world (Keep it short! Could be anywhere and any story!) + photo, add #travelstory #tierrahotels.

Instagram: Upload a photo + one of your stories from around the world (Could be anywhere and any story!), add #travelstory #tierrahotels.”

See? I told you – simple. I’ve been to the Tierra Atacama property, and it’s magic; I’m all over this contest for a chance to visit the Tierra Patagonia property, which is purported to be every bit as spectacular as its desert-bound cousin.

Saint Lucia for USA Today

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Starry night Over Saint Lucia

I skipped down to the Caribbean paradise of Saint Lucia to write a story for USA Today’s Go Escape Magazine, and to check out the Ladera Resort, a property that has landed on just about every “Best Hotels in the World” list written in the past ten years. Long story short; Ladera was as remarkable as advertised, and Saint Lucia is stunning.

USA Today Travel has posted my print feature online, and you can check it out here – thought the magazine is still on news stands through July, so you can grab a copy to check out more images from me, and some fantastic travel pieces from my travel writing comrades.

Click here for the whole story.

USA TODAY TRAVEL’s Go Escape magazine is available on newsstands now through July 26.

Special thanks to my friends at J Public Relations for arranging my visit to Ladera, Saint Lucia’s stunning crown jewel. Ladera is the only resort in St.Lucia located on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, overlooking the Pitons and the Caribbean Sea. www.jpublicrelations.com www.ladera.com

Catch up with me on twitter: @FlashParker and instagram: FlashParker

Don’t Fight the Light

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Today I’m going to discuss light – and how I learned a few years back not to fight it. I’m using this image shot at the Grace Cafayate in Argentina to illustrate my point.

Tools of the Trade:

- camera with manual settings

- any old lens in your bag (this write up is more about technique and less about gear)

The Down and Dirty:

This image is about what I don’t do as a photographer now versus what I would have done four or five years ago. Four or five years ago, I would have seen the blown highlights in the sky and the soft light as enemies to be vanquished from the battlefield, or balls to be smacked off the polo pitch. I would have strapped on at least one graduated neutral density filter to bring the sky back into play, and I would have jacked the contrast to obscene levels. I may have even fought against the gorgeous color of the light. I hate my old photographic self. He was a monster.

These days I do my very best to capture the world as it is presented to me. I go for natural beauty – not the type manufactured later in Photoshop (not to say that images don’t need some tweaking from time to time, but as a travel photographer, it’s sort of a good idea to be in the right place at the right time in the first place). This means that I shoot when the light is good, like it was this day in Cafayate. The sun was going down, and about to disappear behind a mountain ridge – but for ten solid minutes, it glowed beautifully just like this.

The first thing I wanted to do was represent the color accurately; Auto-White Balance mode would have washed out my color, so I flipped my WB setting to Cloudy to allow that golden light to shine. Next, I made the call to shoot with an aperture of f/5 because I wanted the players and their horses to be tack sharp, but the background to be nice and soft. This had the added benefit of allowing me to use a shutter speed of 1/1600, at ISO 200 – perfectly fast enough to freeze motion, and to keep the image free of noise.

Again, the light – I really wanted the light to be the star of the show here, and not beat it back with a stick. I wanted the image to have a bright, like feel to it, so I made sure to meter for one of the riders, and not the sky or the background. This kept the camera from pulling the exposure back to far and making the image a dark mess.

I used a Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 lens to capture this image – I was standing on one side of the polo pitch, so I needed a bit of reach to see the guys on the other side. This was shot at 112mm.

Here’s what the image might have looked like had I let the camera do all the thinking for me:

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This is kind of gross, to be honest with you. It looks like two guys playing polo in a nuclear winter, not in one of the prettiest places on earth. The camera wanted badly to “fix” the blown highlights in the sky, “correct” the color, and even the playing field, so to speak. This is exactly why it’s important that you understand the ins and outs of your gear, and know what the camera is going to do before it does it. You need to know everything about exposure and light, and you need to know what your histogram is saying – so that you can ignore all of it and make the camera do what you want it to do. When I’m working, I rely on technique and emotion, not on what the camera wants me to see, or how it wants to represent a scene. There’s a big difference between a guy who likes cameras and a photographer; tell the camera what to do. Be a photographer.

Image specs:

Camera: Nikon D800

Lens: Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8

Aperture: f/5     ISO: 200     Shutter speed: 1/1600     Focal Length: 112mm

Special Thanks:

Special thanks to my friends at J Public Relations for arranging my visit to the gorgeous Grace Cafayate in Argentina’s remarkable Salta Region; Cafayate is about as impressive a wine region as there is on earth. Stay tuned for my print features, coming to a few of my favorite mags later this year. www.jpublicrelations.com www.gracehotels.com

And of course, huge thanks to Chimu Adventures for helping to put together a brilliant South American itinerary.  Chimu Adventures is the finest travel outfitter in Argentina, and offers tailor-made expeditions that get at the heart of the country’s most essential experiences. www.chimuadventures.com

Flash Light Photography Expeditions:

For more handy how-to photographic bliss, check out the Flash Light Expeditions Pocket Guide series I’ve written and photographed with Dylan Goldby of www.welkinlight.com

Chiang Mai, Thailand: While We’re Here

This pocket guide from Flash Light Photography Expeditions will help you get the most out of your visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Created to support our annual Northern Thailand Photography Expedition, this tiny tome is all about helping you craft a winning travel portfolio during your time abroad.  Click here for more.

 Flash in the Wild: A Pocket Guide to the Right Light

Welcome to the wild. This pocket guide will help you get the most out of your small off-camera flash while shooting on location. Whether you’re a burgeoning amateur, semi-pro or professional photographer, you’ll benefit from the more than 20 step-by-step breakdowns in our new guide.
This guide is for anyone who ever wanted to create a big scene with small lights, but didn’t know where to begin. From city streets to the darkest wood, we work through one exciting location after the other while bending light on a whim. We’ll show you what you need to pack into your kit, how to build a lightweight, everyday shooting system, and most importantly, how to react to, read, and control your light. Click here for more.