Fiori (Flowers)


I Fiori (Flowers in Italian)

Shot with a Canon EOS 50D (w/ 17-55 f2.8 IS USM lens)

  • Shot on Aperture priority
  • Focal Length: 17mm (35mm equivalent: 27mm)
  • Aperture: f2.8
  • Exposure: 1/400s
  • ISO 200

Shot this image in Siracusa, Sicily, which is where I’m travelling over this weekend. It is terribly windy and mostly over-cast, but this shot was taken in one of the few times I had good weather.

I got in, up, close and personal with the flowers at a stall at the market – set the aperture at its widest and let the shallow depth of field do its job of blurring out the rest. I’m not a big fan of floral shots but I loved this when I saw it and could not resist showing it off. I have to leave most of my other shots on standby for a few stories I want to write about Sicily.

(#70 of 366 X 2012 project)

Breaking Waves

Shot with a Canon EOS 50D (w/ Jupiter-6 180mm f2.8 lens)

  • Shot on Aperture priority
  • Focal Length: 180mm (35mm equivalent: 288mm)
  • Aperture: f2.8
  • Exposure: 1/320s
  • ISO 640
Driving along the coast of Sicily in gale-force winds revealed some of the worst, and most beautiful, aspects of nature. Everything was being blown to bits – tiles were falling off roofs, signs and other semi-permanent structures were being uprooted and keeping the car on the road was a challenge due to the strong cross-winds on the highways.
The wind was also blowing the sea all over the place. Everything within 5-6 blocks from the coast was covered in sea-spray. There was no escaping it, so the next best thing was to shoot it. These photos were taken off the coast of i Giardini di Naxos, a popular sea-side resort which was deserted given the weather conditions.
The first shot (above) was taken at a fast shutter speed (to freeze the motion of the water), however I also experimented with some slower shutter speeds to see whether I could capture the motion of the sea engulfing the rock. I probably prefer the shot below in feeling, but have to present the one on top because I was shooting handheld at 180mm so the photo is not as sharp as I would like it to be.
  • Shot on Aperture priority
  • Focal Length: 180mm (35mm equivalent: 288mm)
  • Aperture: f2.8
  • Exposure: 1/50s
  • ISO 100

(#69 of 366 X 2012 project)

5 Ultimate Tips for Traveling Light

If this is your idea of packing you're in for a shock to the system.

Size Matters. You can usually tell a frequent traveller from an amateur by the size of their suitcase. In general the more I travel the less I carry, I have learned that on most of my holidays comfort is key, both in wardrobe choice and luggage volume. The restrictions imposed by low-cost airlines have made the matter even more important.

I have now mastered the dark art of packing all I need for a holiday of four days and under into a miniature suitcase which fits into the metal gadgets airlines use to measure hand luggage dimensions, even when I’m carrying my (very) bulky SLR with me.

I always follow the following 5 rules when packing:

Only take what you need
This might seem like the most obvious tips in the world, however I never cease to amaze myself at our capacity of packing more than we need. Think through your itinerary and make a good inventory of what you might need. Once you have it, make a list and start going through the list removing things that you might not really need. You will find loads of them. I once travelled with someone who carried a towel for each day, and we were staying at good hotels. He had carried them along “just in case”. The same goes for clothes. Do you really need two completely separate outfits for each day of the trip?

Re-purpose items
You definitely need to keep your hygiene levels decent, so I’m not suggesting that you wear the same underwear for a week, however if going on longer holidays you might want to pack some hand-wash detergent to wash some basics.

I find that I can carry less trousers (which are really bulky, especially when compared to tee-shirts or shirts) if I travel in semi-formal jeans. Wear them with a tee-shirt and you’re comfortable and casual; wear them with a shirt and you will not be kicked out of a restaurant. The same goes for shoes, I travel in a pair that are comfortable but can be dressed up (within limits) or down as needed.

Finally if you really need to have a different outfit every day, plan your wardrobe well and carry a consistent set of colours. That way you can mix and match items and still carry less.

Pack smaller items
Buy travel-packs of toothpaste and deodorant and, if you are particular about your shampoo or face-wash, pour some into small containers. I find that the little shampoo containers from hotels are brilliant to be re-purposed as containers – and it’s good for the environment too!

Your choice of clothes can also make a difference here. Wool, for example, gives much more warmth than cotton for the same volume, so pack a woollen top instead of a cotton (or polyester) one of the same warmth and you gain space and volume.

Pack well
Another piece of advice that should be obvious but is so often overlooked. If you throw all your items into a suitcase or bag at random you can never expect to fit everything into one neat package. Pay extra care and attention to items like socks (if you put them in pairs by turning the top over the other one) and shoes. These eat up space if not packed well. Fold everything neatly and roll certain items tightly, especially undergarments which don’t need to be crisply ironed when you wear them.

Pack a folding bag
And the final trick is to always pack a folding, collapsible bag. If traveling as a couple you can take only one with you, it is generally enough. This is a life-saver when you pack your bag to the limit and then cannot resist the temptation to do some shopping abroad (and who can?). If flying low-cost I sometimes pay extra in advance for luggage allowance on the way back only. This way I can relax while I’m there because I know that I have something to fall back on if the need arises.

Photo (CC) by alamodestuff (Flickr)

(#66 of 366 X 2012 project)

48-Hour Romance

You are an author, entrusted with writing a whirlwind romance. You are given two characters: a seasoned traveler and a destination. Any place in the world that can be traveled to safely.

A deadline has been imposed on your romance: 48 hours. Use it wisely.

You have been conceded one allowance: time to decide what you want to do there and to plan it out in advance.

A quick break can be as fulfilling as a long holiday as long as you immerse yourself entirely. Plan the right things to do well enough and you will find that you can take much more frequent trips that span over a weekend (or a couple of weekdays). All you need are one or two nights and a lot of stamina.

Do not leave anything to chance. Every minute you spend wondering what to do next is a minute wasted. Forget the notion of “free time” and minimize the time you spend sleeping. If you want to laze about, stay at home on the couch or head down to a beach.

To make it you need to focus and to accept that you shall be forced to make some compromises in order to enjoy yourself. Miss out on the things that you would have visited just to tick boxes made by someone else. Life is not about their boxes; it is about yours.

If you love jazz, you have to choose a jazz club over the Empire State Building, no matter how many people will shake their head when you tell them you went to NYC and did not see it from 82 floors up.

You have the recipe. All you need are the ingredients. Choose a destination, a theme and a partner in crime. Plan meticulously and then elope; write your own 48-hour novel.

(#61 of 366 X 2012 project)

Peace in France


Shot with a Canon EOS 50D (w/ 17-55 f2.8 IS USM lens)

  • Shot on Aperture priority
  • Focal Length: 55mm (35mm equivalent: 88mm)
  • Aperture: f4.5
  • Exposure: 1/1000s
  • ISO 200

I don’t live in a big city. Heck, our country is less populated than a suburb in one of the world’s major cities, so in comparison our life is relatively laid back. Life on a farm in France, however, is infinitely more laid back than anything we can even dream of on an overpopulated island.

I don’t think that I would manage to live my whole life in a place such as the one depicted in the photo above, however I wish I had more time to spend in the total peace and quiet I experienced while out shooting these pictures.

This barn was actually the last part in a small compound of buildings, but every time I tried shooting the scene from up close with a wider angle I felt I was losing the dreary feeling of loneliness. The sky was bleak on the day, but I didn’t feel it needed too much boosting in post-production because it just adds to the sense of emptiness.

(#51 of 366 X 2012 project)

Frozen Bench

Frozen Bench

Shot with a Canon EOS 50D (w/ 17-55 f2.8 IS USM lens)

  • Shot on Aperture priority
  • Focal Length: 17mm (35mm equivalent: 27mm)
  • Aperture: f4.5
  • Exposure: 1/640s
  • ISO 200

One of the photos I took in France a couple of weeks ago. I went out shooting in St Marcellin de Cray, a little village in Burgundy, and managed to stick the freezing temperatures for a total of about 20 minutes. I was dressed up quite warmly but I (stupidly) had no gloves because I don’t feel as comfortable shooting with them. By then end of it I had to rush into the car (which, thankfully, was still warm because I left it running).

Even in freezing temperatures it is very hard not to appreciate the beauty around you in the French countryside. This bench, sitting there all alone, would have taken quite some courage to use in that weather, but I have been to the same place in Spring and Summer and nothing is more peaceful than spending some time there listening the little stream go by.

(#47 of 366 X 2012 project)