Tiny Planets meet NASDAQ in Times Square, New York, with WPP

From the tallest buildings in the world to the largest permanent video screen on earth – My “Tiny Planets” series has managed to make it on Broadway!

WPP NASDAQ Times Square New York July 2015 Tiny Planets Brandz Top 100 10 Year Anniversary Celebration Paul Reiffer Sir Martin Sorrell CEO Stock Market

NASDAQ Welcome Sir Martin Sorrell CEO WPP July 23 2015 Stock Exchange Times Square Tiny Planets Big ScreenAt 7 storeys high, the MarketSite Tower on the corner of Times Square was broadcasting my images on Thursday to millions as part of NASDAQ’s celebration of WPP’sBrandz Top 100” 10-year anniversary.

With their CEO, Martin Sorrell, in attendance for the occasion this was a big day for all and the guys put on quite a show. :-)

So much for “tiny” planets, I guess – these things were on 10,000 square feet of signage made up of 19 million LEDs!

Close Up Big Screen Broadway WPP NASDAQ Times Square New York July 2015 Tiny Planets Brandz Top 100 10 Year Anniversary Celebration Paul Reiffer Sir Martin Sorrell CEO Stock Market

Thankfully, despite being 8,000 miles away, the guys at ToInspire productions (who work with WPP) managed to capture a video for me of the big-screen performance :-)

Granted, when most people say they’ve “made it on Broadway”, this isn’t quite what they had in mind – but hey, I’ll take it 😉

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The Glenorchy Willow Trees – Back Again for Winter!

Well, *I* was back for winter – I’m going to guess the willow trees themselves didn’t go anywhere since I was there last year!

Glenorchy Willows Line Up Sunrise Remarkables Snow Mountains Lake Wakatipu Queenstown New Zealand Winter Paul Reiffer Professional Medium Format Landscape Photographer PureNewZealand

For those who remember my shots from last winter – “myst” and “the three witches“, you’ll recall that we were pretty much fog-bound for the window we had to shoot. This time, with the flexibility of our “Jucy Casa” home on wheels, I was determined to get a shot showing the true surroundings of these often-photographed little trees.

Heading back from Nugget Point lighthouse (on the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island), we were originally hopeful. We’d managed to miss all snow storms and major road closures and despite the rain as we left for Queenstown, the weather seemed to be getting better the whole way along. So much so, we even had time to try out step 13 of my new 21-step “pie diet” that is now required for any 8-day trip to New Zealand – this time, thanks to Jimmy 😉

BTS 1 Queenstown Rainbow Jucy Campervan Camper Casa Rainbow Jimmys Pies New Zealand Wayne The Cow Pizza Rain Glenorchy Willow Trees Winter

So, getting to Glenorchy in time for sunset, hearts then sank when we realised that while the weather behind the trees was great – the sky in front of the sun itself was full of cloud. With no colour in the sky at all, flat light losing all definition in the mountains and a temperature dropping below freezing, night one was already a bust. The second problem was the framing: While I preferred the sideways shot in some ways, the trees in the foreground just moved too much on a long exposure to allow for anything “tidy” to come out of the camera.

Only one thing for it – a quick drive back to Queenstown for some warmth in the form of pizza and beer at The Cow. Indeed, another education as Wayne found out just how “dirty” a multinational pizza could be… 😉

Glenorchy Willows Line Up Sunset Mountains Lake Wakatipu Queenstown New Zealand Winter Paul Reiffer Professional Medium Format Landscape Photographer PureNewZealand

Sadly, beers stop flowing quite so freely when you remember that you need to be 50km away an hour before sunrise the next morning – so, after a quick sleep, it was back up and out to the boat house and pier at Glenorchy’s waterfront.

WOW it’s cold in the mornings there in winter. Granted, it was actually warmer than I remember it when I was there last year (there was no ice on the ground), but it’s not the perfect place to be stood for over an hour  before any form of sunlight appears to provide some heat.

BTS 2 Winter Morning Cold Ice Frost Jucy Camper Casa Campa Van Glenorchy Lake Wakatipu Queenstown New Zealand South Island Willow Trees Photography Professional Photographs

So… Just like for a Guiness, we wait. Slooooooooowly the sun was rising and due to hit the snow-capped mountains in the background. The clouds hung around over the peaks and were moving just enough to capture the perfect frame. So, the right place, the right time, the right conditions…

…and then it struck. [warning – TMI moment ahead] It seemed I’d maybe had one too many pies and a few too many slices of pizza. Standing in the cold for hours on end with that lot “on-board” meant I had a drastic decision to make (which every photographer at some point in their life will have to make): to stay, or “to go”.

I’ve never driven a car with as much panic as I did that morning – let alone a 4-berth camper-van, on my mission to find somewhere to go. We’d all vowed to never use the “facilities” onboard our vans (basically, as nobody wanted to deal with any form of cleaning after a week!) so this was a red-alert moment. And here’s the thing – after my quick 1-mile round trip, it worked out perfectly (ish!). When I returned a few minutes later, the sun had just hit the tops of the mountains with a warm pink light – and I clicked away with a few long exposures.

The top shot was exactly what I wanted to capture – these trees are actually part of a cluster of 12-15 in a row, and 9 of them find their permanent home in Lake Wakatipu itself. The warmth of the sunlight above, hitting the cold winter snow-capped mountains against a pure blue sky, with the still lake below below where the wiry trees reside. On first inspection, they’re not that impressive (they’re quite small actually!) but when you combine them with the fog we had last winter or the stunning backdrop of that mountain range at sunrise, wow, even winter branches seem to come alive.

I guess you could say it all came good in the end. Much to Mark and Wayne’s enjoyment, they both pointed out that there was actually a public convenience about 25m from where I was stood with my tripod, right next to the boat house itself. There aren’t words that I can write without being censored by Google search results, but you can imagine.

Only one thing for it to make me feel better… Pie 14 out of 21 of the plan – this time a Glenorchy speciality.

BTS 3 Glenorchy Pies Boat House Shooting Photographing Willow Trees Water Lake Wakatipu Paul Reiffer Professional Landscape Photographer Winter New Zealand Chicken

Many lessons learned that morning – and all for just one picture of some little trees in a lake 😉

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The Shanghai Tower – The tallest place a Phase One has ever visited in the world!

At the time of writing, this is literally the highest platform that a Phase One system has ever been in the world – pretty cool!

Being able to capture the view below in 80 megapixels of definition is amazing, and the level of detail I managed to record (despite the circumstances you’ll soon read about below!) still surprises me. This might even become my new desktop background for little while 😉

Shanghai Tower Tallest Building China 632m Bottle Opener Jin Mao SWFC World Financial Center Highest Phase One Skyscrapers Megascrapers Paul Reiffer Photographer Photograph night

Looking down on two of the world’s tallest skyscrapers is an interesting perspective, and really does mess with your mind when you get to do it – but wow, Shanghai’s brand new “megascraper” is high. Really high – 632m to be exact.

electri city shanghai pudong skyline night 2015 paul reiffer professional photographer

Granted, it’s technically smaller than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but as I explained a few months back, a lot of the Burj’s claimed “height” is actually not real. You see, while the observation deck of Dubai’s mega-structure is at 556m, the Shanghai Tower’s is at 561m (out of a building which is 632m tall). And guess what, we were a little bit above that too… 😉

Special Access Shanghai Tower Observation Pre Opening Before Preview Top Floor Rooftop Paul Reiffer Photographer China Phase One

Now part of Shanghai’s “trio”, the Shanghai Tower now joins the Jin Mao Tower (420m) and Shanghai World Financial Center / SWFC (492m) to be the third and final huge building within 100m of each other. It opens in a few months, but I was (extremely!) lucky enough to get early access and shoot from above before the barriers and glass get installed, preventing a completely clear view from the public areas.

Special Access Behind The Scenes Shanghai Tower Observation Pre Opening Before Preview Top Floor Rooftop Paul Reiffer Photographer China Phase One

There’s still quite a bit of work to do up there, but this place will be amazing when open. Not only is the top observatory deck open to the air above, but there are three glass-floored dining rooms which are on roller systems allowing them to span out over the edge of the building to allow diners an amazing view down while they eat! Not for everyone, I’m sure, but quite an experience nonetheless! A lot of the top few floors is also given up to a unique wind-power generation system (the far right image above) which, when running, can power the restaurants below.

Shanghai Tower Tallest Building China 632m Bottle Opener Jin Mao SWFC World Financial Center Highest Phase One Night Paul Reiffer Photographer Photograph Daytime

Arriving at the tower, we were hopeful. The service elevators take a lot longer than the final observatory ones will for the public when operational – but when we got to the top that amazing view was  there and ready for us to capture. Having spent time in both of the other buildings in this shot (Jin Mao to the left, SWFC to the right), it’s a rather strange experience to be looking down on them – especially in a city where private aviation is pretty much illegal, meaning helicopters are a no-no…! :-(

And so we waited for nightfall.

At which point, we realised the inherent problem with being this high up in the stormy season in Shanghai – we were very quickly inside the weather! Oooops.

Special Access BTS cloud souped in Shanghai Tower Observation Pre Opening Before Preview Top Floor Rooftop Paul Reiffer Photographer China Phase One

Still, never one to waste a shot, I clicked away, hoping for a clearing – I got a brief one (the top image of this post), luckily, but then things started getting dramatically worse. There comes a point in every photographer’s shooting plan where things simply aren’t going to get any better – and this was it.

Shanghai Tower Tallest Building China 632m Bottle Opener Jin Mao SWFC World Financial Center Highest Phase One Skyscrapers Megascrapers Paul Reiffer Photographer skyscraper Photograph clouds

As the cloud thickened up, it was time to leave with a great view, a fantastic opportunity and a lucky (one) shot in the bag…

In reality, I’ll be heading back to re-shoot on a clearer day as even my favourite shot still has too much moisture in the air so the lights aren’t quite as sharp as I’d like. But then life would be boring if every little thing went perfectly to plan, right? 😉

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Photographic Filters – NiSi, Cokin & LEE review and comparison

“What filters do you use?” – It’s the question that most landscape photographers ask just after they’ve probed into what camera you’re using.

And in the same way as the ongoing “Nikon vs Canon war” (which is amusing to watch in itself!) the so-called brand allegiance is fun to explore when you start asking exactly why a photographer has chosen a particular system.

Sydney Example NiSi Filters Review Comparison ND1000 GND Soft Grad Opera House Photography Photographic Lens Bridge Harbour Circular Quay Morning Sunrise

For landscapes, filters can quickly become an essential part of your kit list – and they can be as big an investment for a full set as a very good lens in itself. Rightly so, I must add, as what’s the point in paying £5,000 for a lens to put a piece of cheap plastic in front of it for when you want to slow down an exposure?!

Let’s take the shot above – from Sydney, Australia – without a “Graduated Neutral Density Filter” either the sky would have been too bright or the city too dark for the camera to resolve in one frame. So, these things become part of what you do, and mine travel everywhere with me.

Having used Cokin, Hoya and LEE filters for many years (and being familiar with each of their little “quirks”), I have to admit I was a little hesitant when the Chinese manufacturer – “NiSi” approached me to see if I’d be willing to try theirs out. That said, they came with good reviews and the tech specs looked promising, so I accepted – but presented them with one big problem: My Phase One 28mm lens.

You see, many of you who have looked at my “behind the scenes” images will have noticed I have a range of extra things covering the camera to prevent “light leaks” – and this is common for almost every Phase One shooter out there. The cause? It’s the fact that the lens has a built-in “hood”, and the glass sticks out beyond, preventing the use of any sort of screw-thread (traditional) filter kit. Some manufacturers (like LEE) have introduced a special ultra-wide filter system such as the one I already own for these types of lenses (the modified SW-150) but in all honesty, they are still shockingly bad at preventing light from leaking through. I’ll explain in more detail later, but here’s what NiSi did to take up my challenge:

NiSi Phase One 28mm 150mm Filter Holder Lens Custom Made Paul Reiffer Photographer

They actually built me a one-of-a-kind prototype to test their system with. Custom-made for my lens, perfectly manufactured, it would have been rude to say no…!

I decided it would be worth doing a proper comparison on the three systems I own: Cokin’s “X-Pro” series of 130mm resin filters. LEE’s 150mm filter system (in both glass and resin) and NiSi’s 150mm all-glass, coated filter system. Both Cokin and LEE options, I’ve used for quite some time – the NiSi offer was completely new to me and a trip to New Zealand presented the perfect opportunity to give it a real test.

So let’s consider what we’re looking for in an ideal filter system. Really, it’s 4 things:

  1. Simple and easy to use
  2. No “light leaks”
  3. No “colour cast”
  4. Durable and hard-wearing

1) Let’s start at the beginning – “simple and easy to use”. And here’s the comparison:

professional 150mm 130mm cokin lee nisi phase one schneider sk ls afp large format independent filter holder comparison

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, that LEE system is a nightmare! In fact, in order to install the filter holder, you have to remove the lens from the camera each time (risking additional dust hitting the sensor) and assemble the 4 metal parts together in the right order, followed by placing two silly bits of black plastic that claim to stop light leaking on to the back of it – hardly efficient! At a practical level, it just feels like something that has been designed by an engineer – not a photographer. When I arrive at a location, I don’t have time to assemble such a contraption, I just need to get the shot.

The Cokin offer for this type of lens is rather like a medical spine-lengthening device that you have to screw to the outside of the lens hood and slide the holder over the top, but at least it’s a lot simpler and compact than the LEE Filters SW150 system. “Basic” doesn’t describe its scant design accurately – but this is something which is meant to be a “catch all” for any large lens out there, so no surprises that it feels somewhat clunky and unsophisticated in comparison.

And then, on the right, we have the NiSi system. One piece of metal, with 3 slots attached to it and two screws that tighten the collar around the outside of the lens hood, ready to go. I’m still a little concerned about the two small gaps on the inner ring, but otherwise it seems like a much better design.

OK, first round: NiSi: 9/10 | Cokin: 5/10 | LEE: 1/10 (it’s made of good metal, at least)

2) Then let’s move on to “light leaks” – and here is where the problems really start.

You see, once you have a gap between the filter and the lens itself, light can creep in. Once light is inside that area, it’s going to bounce around all over the place – you’ll see reflections of yourself, other filters, any bits of dust on the back side of the filter itself, and there’s no controlling it. What makes it even worse is when a filter is uncoated such as those from LEE and Cokin (NiSi use an anti-reflective coating on theirs) and this is why you see photographers wrapping their lenses up in fabric or black tape when shooting – it’s crazy!

light leaks LEE cokin filters large format holder system problem issue

Cokin provide nothing to help with this issue – you have to improvise, whereas LEE offer the two “magic plastic” pieces that slot onto the holder (which are sadly ineffective).

Now, please note that LEE have recently released an update to their SW150 – and introduced the “mark ii” version. This now comes with an extra hood (called a “lightshield”) which is supposed to fix the issue. The reality, however, having seen it being used with my own eyes by a friend on his Nikon setup is that it’s far from perfect:

  1. It’s yet another piece of the puzzle to assemble together on the lens – that makes 5 pieces to put together when shooting – absolutely ridiculous!
  2. Without coated/anti-reflective filters, the issue still exists where even the smallest bit of light entering the chamber will continue to create the problem.
  3. I find it awfully arrogant that they are charging an upgrade price to existing users for the “lightshield”, given the cost of the original unit and that this extra hood is there to fix a design flaw that they engineered!

So, on both the LEE and Cokin front, I’m very unimpressed. So what about the NiSi system? Well, NiSi, like Cokin, provide nothing out of the box – so I had to wonder why…

cokin lee nisi filter comparison professional series slot square 150 system paul reiffer photographer

From the picture above it may not be completely obvious, but NiSi have somehow managed to completely surround the lens hood with their black metal dome, leaving almost zero gap between the holder and the first filter. Unlike the LEE and Cokin offers which have to put “spacers” in before the first filter slot, NiSi have designed this from the ground up to prevent light even entering the chamber. From shooting with the system over a week in New Zealand, I have to say even the two little “gaps” I was worried about had no impact at all – in every situation I put it into, without any additional tricks or fabric blockers, it showed no reflection or leak whatsoever.

NiSi Filters In Use Paul Reiffer Professional Photographer Phase One Cokin LEE Comparison Review New Zealand

Anyone wanting proof? Well, here are some of the outputs from those situations above. Without a lot of “wrapping”, both LEE and Cokin systems would have ruined the shots, as light would have been bouncing around all over the place. This setup from NiSi, however, worked perfectly.

Reveal Paul Reiffer Photographer Landscape Moeraki Boulders Beach Sea Sunset NiSi Filters New Zealand Test Review Cokin Lee Comparison

lake wanaka that tree willow sunset lone alone still paul reiffer professional commercial landscape photographer new zealand winter water

So, second round: NiSi: 9/10 | LEE: 3/10 (the black tabs do block *some* light) | Cokin: 0/10

3) The “fun” one for Cokin: Colour cast (or color cast for those West of Ireland!)

Spend enough time around Cokin users, and you’ll hear them refer to the “slight pink tones” that come from stacking (using more than one of their filters at the same time). Spend that same time around a LEE user, and you’ll hear them mock Cokin users because of the “awful red colour-cast they always get”.

In truth, what neither will tell you is that both LEE and Cokin have colour-cast issues. Cokin filters do generally deliver pinkish-images across the board. LEE present a greenish-blue tint to the image.

Colour cast is a real problem for photographers, but is a natural byproduct of putting sheets of resin or glass in front of the lens. While they’re called neutral density filters”, the reality is that there are always slight colour issues that start to play when multiple layers of any material come in between the light and the sensor.

What makes it worse, in Cokin’s case, is that when you stack their filters (add more than 1 filter in front of the lens), the tint gets dramatically worse. Take a look at these three raw files I took for fun in Lake Tahoe in May – I actually took the last one to demonstrate the point to one of the guys on my workshop:

cokin-colour-color-cast-problem-filters-red-pink-stacking-x-series-pro-paul-reiffer-photographer-review-evaluation-nisi-lee

The first is the scene with a simple ND-Grad. Yes, there’s slightly more magenta than there was in the natural image, but I needed it to balance out the brightness in the shot. The second image is where a 3-stop ND filter has been stacked on the ND-Grad, as the scene was getting generally brighter – note the pinky/reddish colour coming in? Finally, a stack of three (a stack of two ND-Grad filters from Cokin as well as their 3-stop “154” ND) – wow. Now that image is basically unusable (and pretty hard to salvage, even from raw)!

stack multiple filters electrical tape cokin lee nisi black bad idea block out lightWhile we know the problem comes when stacking the glass/resins on top of each other, sometimes, a single graduated filter just isn’t enough. To get “that shot”, I often use two filters in combination (and around 10% of the time, three). If you look at this image, you’ll see I’ve even come up with a handicraft method of stacking 4 or more filters to create two reverse ND-Grads for a bright horizon – but I wouldn’t recommend it!

Now don’t get me wrong – I’ve actually used the Cokin colour-cast to my advantage before – imagine what a slightly warmer/pink tone can do to an already stunning sunrise! But in general, if the filter can’t be relied upon to allow the camera to capture the real colours in a scene, it’s a big problem.

In reality, there is no such thing as a perfectly colour-cast-free filter. ALL substances have some form of impurities and slow down light at different speeds – so any manufacturer that claims they have “absolutely zero colour cast” is massaging the truth at best. What they can do, however, is reduce it (and test the effects of stacking, too!). Both NiSi and LEE claim to have colour-cast free shots – personally, I’m not entirely sold on that statement but they are both very good.

With LEE, there is a definite greenish tint to the images I capture (which needs fixing later). NiSi, slightly less so, and certainly both are a lot better than Cokin, but some level of colour-cast is something that we just have to accept for the time being.

Third round: NiSi: 9/10 | LEE: 8/10 | Cokin: 2/10 (just don’t stack them!)

4) The durability challenge.

Those who have shot with me will know that, sometimes, the image can take priority over my gear. This is especially true in the case of sunrises and sunsets – that perfect sky is there for a matter of minutes or seconds, and I can’t be worrying about wrapping filters back in their original tissue paper when I’m swapping them out between shots. Let’s take the shot below, from New Zealand’s “Church of the Good Shepherd” at Lake Tekapo for sunrise – I actually shot the same scene with 3 different filter setups all during about 6-7 minutes of the sun throwing light through the windows.

Shepherds Delight Paul Reiffer Photographer Nisi Filter ND1000 Soft GND review New Zealand Church Of The Good Shepherd Lake Tekapo

To perform that level of rapid-swap-outs, I need to be 100% confident in my gear. If I rest a filter on my bag, it can’t be “damaged” by a loose bit of dirt landing on it before I get chance to place it back in its holder.

I’m looking for a filter holder that is robust and compact (yes, it’s likely to suffer a few knocks during its working life!), as well as filters themselves which can resist the normal wear and tear of sliding in and out of their holding pouches. Again, this is where the manufacturers will all claim theirs are the best/strongest/toughest – the reality is they all have issues.

Cokin provide resin filters – which inherently are more susceptible to scratching. Indeed, I’ve had to replace 2 of mine recently because they just got too damaged (in part, because their holder itself allows the filter to touch the lens hood and any rotation then digs a trough into the surface!).

LEE (in some cases) offer both glass as well as resin filters, and I’ve personally found the glass options to be more durable – but the surface still appears to be easily marked.

NiSi offer an all-glass lineup – in theory more durable, but I have had some marks appear on the outside coating which seem to come from sliding in and out of the holding pouch. To be fair, unlike on a resin filter, these marks don’t seem to do anything to image quality and it looks like it’s only the anti-reflective coating that is affected, but it’s a little concerning that after a week’s shooting there are small signs of wear…

Fourth round: LEE: 9/10 (only for glass options) | NiSi: 7/10 | Cokin: 3/10 (for resin, they’re not bad)

Conclusion

Based on my unscientific view (of course!) the numbers tell me the answer: NiSi 34/40 | LEE 21/40 | Cokin 10/40(!)

But let’s not forget that numbers themselves only tell half the story. In reality, I’ve used my Cokin filters for a long, long, time and have always loved the images they help me create. Yes, all filters have their problems – and if we’re looking for the “perfect solution” then technically they’re a bad choice. But I’m not shooting in the perfect environment, with the perfect setup, with perfect lighting (and my photography is equally not perfect!) so does it really matter that much if there are some technical inadequacies in the glass/resin you’re using?

In the world of filters, there are tens of “top-brands” (and hundreds of others) – I haven’t even mentioned my options from Hoya, Tiffen, Formatt HiTech, plus many more. All of these will have things they do well, and things they do badly. When it comes to my Phase One 28mm setup, I have to always keep a soft spot for Cokin, as (unlike LEE or NiSi) they were the only manufacturer that even offered a solution to my ultra-wide lens when I first started using it – without them, I wouldn’t have been able to capture the scenes I already have!

Likewise, LEE Filters were the first company to make a specific adapter for the ultra-wide series of lenses through their SW-150 kit, opening the door for many photographers to get creative again. While that system now appears clunky and messy, at one point it was a great option in comparison to anything else out there. Likewise, LEE have had a long ride on the back of their “Big Stopper” 10-stop ND solution – which has served them well and created an entire genre of long-exposure photography that’s become iconic in some ways.

The challenge is, that times change, and “new kids” come to play in the same arena. This is how I view the NiSi solution – it’s taken some of the best technology as well as the feedback about other solutions (through working with and listening to photographers like me) to create a system that’s truly great. It’s also surprisingly strong on the camera – I had no issues leaving it in the wind (with no motion blur from catching gusts) for minute-long exposures up high. If their intention was getting an accurate representation of what the camera sees, with “no-fuss” involved, they really have hit the jackpot with their new system.

I love my Cokin filters for their quirks. My LEE system was great to learn about long exposure times, and helped a bit with the light leak issues the Cokin holder kept giving me. But from now on, if I have to travel light, it’ll be the NiSi system I pack when I want results from a shoot.

nisi filter holder good strong winds safe comparison lee cokin paul reiffer photographer new zealand sydney australia sunrise lighthouse

As always, there is a “final word”, of course. With all that said above – let’s just remember one thing. It really doesn’t matter what kit you have in the grand scheme of things, it’s what you do with it that counts :-)

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“That Tree” Again – Lake Wanaka’s Lone Willow Revisited

“That tree” – said with admiration, love, or detest – it doesn’t matter, it’s what pretty much everyone living in or visiting Lake Wanaka will say at some point once a day! To be fair, this was the second time I’ve visited “that tree” in 12 months, and while unassuming and unimpressive in itself, the scene surrounding this lone willow tree out in the freshwater lake is nothing short of stunning.

lake wanaka that tree willow sunset lone alone still paul reiffer professional commercial landscape photographer new zealand winter water

No wonder it’s helped bring tourists to this tiny town about 2 hours north of Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. The trick, is how to capture it and do the scene justice in a way that was different to the last time…

My capture above, “still” (to go with my existing print “alone“, so “still alone”, get it?! 😉 ) aims to do just that. It’s a completely different feel from my previous shot – in part due to the conditions, but also a different take in shooting it vertically. I just love the colours in the background, those rich pinks and oranges that only hang in the sky for a few moments after the sun disappears behind the mountains.

Photographing that tree lake wanaka willow behind the scenes phase one giottos tripod water sunset paul reiffer photographer professionalArriving at the tree, you’re presented with a few challenges. First, the water level varies dramatically based on the season. With no snow-melt, at the end of summer, the tree is actually on a mud bank and you can even walk to it. Too much melt and the lower branches are submerged.

This winter, the lake was at a perfect level for us. Granted, it still involved getting tripods and feet pretty wet in order to miss the other photographers all stood to the left, but there’s a reason carbon fibre tripods were invented, right? 😉

It was also a good time to try out my new NiSi ND1000 filter for a long exposure with this perfect water level. The guys there gave me a custom filter holder for my favourite Phase One lens to try during this trip, and unlike other filters I’ve used, it kept all light leaks out and delivered absolutely zero colour cast for this shot – 10/10 guys!

Second, is the fact that the sky colours (and in turn, lake) change dramatically in a very short period of time. My iPhone shots below give some sort of example of this, shot over the two evenings we were there, but being there is an even more colourful experience.

changing colours colors sky photographing that tree lake wanaka willow behind the scenes phase one sunset paul reiffer photographer professional

The reflections from snow, mountain air and high sunset all play with the light around this area each evening – with stunning results. Beyond that, the rush to capture the sun at this time of year as it hits the perfect angle to disappear into the trees with a fantastic flare means every photographer heads to the same spot to get “that shot” at the same time…!

lake wanaka that tree willow sunset flare star burst lone alone still paul reiffer professional commercial landscape photographer new zealand winter water

Just for fun, let’s compare that shot with the exact same scene (granted, a little wider) from the evening before, below. While many people have shot “that tree” in Lake Wanaka, I’d say it’s impossible for any two shots to be the same in this crazy background of a location…

lake wanaka that tree willow cold ice blue snow lone alone still paul reiffer professional commercial landscape photographer new zealand winter water

We had two sunsets in Lake Wanaka, so the pressure was a little off – but our final issue then hit: the same problem I had last time – “the birds”.

Come sunset, the local birds have (correctly) come to the conclusion that the lone willow tree in the lake is a particularly nice place to hang out – and who can blame them. The challenge is, birds don’t sit still or in one place for more than 2 seconds!

Unlike my visit last year, however, I had two secret weapons : The Mark and The Wayne. In the interests of public decency, I won’t upload the video of them “emptying” the tree of birds, but let’s just say it was as effective as it was humorous to watch…

The result? My top shot – “still“, now available to buy as a limited edition print. :-)

I guess I owed them a beer. So, with the Jucy camper running low, who better for Wayne to ask for local beer and food directions than the police? It’s just a shame this particular police officer clearly wasn’t impressed with the question – directing us to a home-brew place which delivered a pint of something which was stronger than a horse tranquilliser.

Lake Wanaka Police Help Directions Home Brew White House Jucy Camper Casa New Zealand

And then I woke up. 😉

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How to Shoot the Night Sky – Paul’s Guide to Astro & Star Photography

Night/Astro/Star/Star-trail Photography – whatever you want to call it, this is a genre which has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years (partly connected with the increase in sensitivity of reasonably-priced camera sensors over the same period). The irony being, it’s also one of the easiest forms of photography that yields some of the most impressive results if you get it right.

Given the chance for some downtime while travelling around the New Zealand wilderness in our “Jucy Casa” campervan, I reflected on the sheer volume of exactly the same questions which were asked by the people around us while shooting at Lake Tekapo. So, with that in mind, here’s “Paul’s Guide to Star Photography” – in bite-sized chunks that are as easy to digest as a Jimmy’s Pie!

While Shepherds Watched Night Sky Star Astro Photography Guide Paul Reiffer Professional Photographer Church Of Good Shepherd Lake Tekapo Milky Way How To New Zealand Queenstown crop

The above image is a single frame from the camera, no “photoshop tricks” or playing, and here’s the funny thing – with the right tools, it was also really easy to capture. So, let’s get started:

You’re going to need some specific camera equipment to do it justice. In order to capture a sharp, (relatively) noise-free, clear and vibrant image you do need some things in your kit bag:

  • Lens with at least a wide open f/2.8 aperture, (if possible, even better than that)
  • Wide-angle Lens of 16mm or wider (35mm equivalent)
  • Camera body with a full frame sensor if possible
  • The capability to shoot at a minimum of ISO1600 at night with low noise
  • The ability to manually focus on infinity
  • Manual shutter mode, with exposures of 25-30 seconds
  • A RED headlamp, dimmable(!)
  • A source of soft light in different colours if you want to “light-paint”

From the above, you’ll see that some “point-and-shoot” cameras simply won’t cut it for this sort of shot. Also, don’t fall in to the trap of thinking the more expensive equipment is better – for example, this isn’t a shot that my Phase One camera can actually take, so I switched back to my full-frame Canon with L lens instead. Some of the most popular lenses for this type of photography are also some of the cheapest – “Samyang” manufacturing one of those, where the preferred lens for many astro-photographers is actually around 1/3 of the price of Canon’s L series equivalent, and arguably better suited!

We’ll go into more detail on the aspects above shortly, but I’m also going to add three “tools” to your phone as necessities for night (or sunrise/sunset!) shooting. “TPE”, a good weather app (not Apple’s!) and “SkyGuide”. Of course, there are loads of others out there which do similar things, but I’ve found these are the best for what I need. Together, they can give you information on exactly where the Milky Way is located at what time, and also when the moon is going to make an appearance. When you’re heading into the middle of the night to capture a lone church, a good weather forecast and GPS along with these tools can be the difference between a successful mission and failure – and we weren’t alone in that planning: there must have been 40+ people at the same spot we were trying to capture!

Tools Astro Star Photography Night Sky Trails Galaxy Milky Way Stars SkyGuide TPE iOS iPhone Church Of The Good Shepherd Lake Tekapo New Zealand Photography Paul Reiffer Guide How To

The moon is really important for this type of shooting – because we don’t want it! if the moon is out, it’s almost impossible to see, and capture, the stars. So, what are we looking for exactly with these apps?

We’re trying to find a spot with:

  1. An interesting foreground (to frame the stars)
  2. A clear sky with no cloud (preferably)
  3. No moon in the sky (so either a new moon or before moonrise/after moonset)
  4. As little light pollution as possible

On that basis, “The Church of the Good Shepherd” in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand, is what many consider to be a perfect location. We got lucky with the timing as although there was due to be a half-moon, it wasn’t expected to rise into the sky for 3-4 hours after we arrived to the clear winter sky. Bear in mind the stars move, as well as the moon, and if you’re looking to capture that all-important Milky Way up there, you’ll need to time it right! Of course, the “no cloud” thing isn’t always 100% essential – sometimes it’s good to add mood and atmosphere to a shot, such as the image below taken at Nugget Point Lighthouse near Kaka Point in the Catlins on New Zealand’s East Coast, but when trying to keep the focus on the stars and foreground, a clear sky is what we’re really looking for.

Nuggets Point Lighthouse Kaka Otago New Zealand Nugget Star Astro Photography Stars Galaxy Universe Sky Paul Reiffer Professional Photographer Guide To Shooting South Island Winter Night

So, that’s our prep. Now on to why the equipment specs are so critical and how to set up your shot:

First, let’s look at the lens. That wide aperture is essential – you need a lens which can let in as much of the light coming from those tiny specs as possible. An f/4.5 or 5.6 simply isn’t going to cut it – you need it to be as open as possible, or you’ll be compensating with either an increased ISO or longer shutter time and anything more than 25-30 seconds will deliver star trails instead of points of light. Star trails are a great effect too, but not what we’re looking for here. Also bear in mind that your lens is not at its sharpest when wide open. A 2.8 lens might actually be better at 3.2 – so the wider (smaller number) you can get to start with, the better.

Next, let’s look at manual focus and zoom. Generally speaking, you want to get as much of the sky in as possible – so the wider the focal distance on the lens the better. Remember that as you approach the corners/edges, the motion in the stars will appear to increase and those parts of the image can become “soft” – not out of focus, but not perfect, so try to keep the main subject towards the middle of the frame. For focusing, you’re going to need to manually set your camera to infinity. Cameras generally need light to focus accurately, and for the sake of others around you, PLEASE don’t do what a coach-load of Chinese tourists managed to do on arrival at the Church and all use their billion-watt torches to try to get their camera-phones to focus on the building! (You also don’t actually need to)

Night vision is really important, taking 10x longer to get accustomed to the night sky than it does to get used to bright light – and using a red head-torch will help prevent damaging that vision. So with your soft light, look over the lens and make sure your focus ring is set to the location of “infinity” (the sideways 8 shape). Do bear in mind that some lenses (such as my Canon 16-35L II) have a different point for infinity when using it at its widest setting (in red) – using the standard white line will give you an out of focus shot like below:

out of focus infinity issue canon 16 35mm l ii lens photographing night sky astro photography stars milky way how to guide paul reiffer professional photographer

It can be challenging to compose a shot in pure darkness on the viewfinder (or live-view, for that matter), so a certain amount of this is “shoot and correct”. By that, I mean do your best to compose the shot through the viewfinder, take one, and then try to re-compose if needed. Your camera at ISO1600 for 25 seconds is far more sensitive than your eyes, so pointing in the right direction to capture the core over your chosen foreground will give you an immediate “wow” on the preview screen. If you have it, turn on both “High ISO Noise Reduction” as well as “Long Exposure Noise Reduction”. The result of this will mean for every 25 seconds the shutter is open, the camera will take another “dark curtain” (pure black) image of the same length of time afterwards to establish which parts are sensor noise and give you a much cleaner image when it’s done processing.

Ideally, you’re looking for a shot on ISO1600-2000, around f/2.8 for 25 seconds.

Some cameras (such as Canon’s 6D and Sony’s A7R) have an amazing ISO range which can allow you to shoot for less time (meaning less movement in the sky) as well as at higher ISO levels with no noise, but the settings above are a guide for the minimum on most current cameras.

Now what about that foreground? I mean, it’s great having “no light pollution”, but I really want the church to be visible and a focus in the final image – well, here’s where light painting comes into play.
First things first, DO NOT get our your “night-sun” billion-watt torch for this! Remember, you’ve set your camera up to capture the tiny light details in the stars, and any strong light is simply going to blow your image as well as everyone else’s. I use an app on my iPhone which allows me to turn the entire screen into one colour, at a specific brightness. This means I can “wave” soft light of any temperature at the foreground. During your 25 second exposure, a few throws of this light in different directions over the subject will illuminate it just enough to bring out the detail you need. Of course, some light sources are unavoidable – car headlights pulling into the parking lot was a favourite of ours! There’s really nothing you can do about it (and people need their headlights at night!) so it’s just a case of timing your shot in between light movements around you.

So we’re now outside shooting in the winter, with all our settings correctly dialled in and still, we get a blurry picture?! Well, I bet I can guess what it is… Frost. Many camera bodies and lenses are made of metal. Metal, in the winter, gets very cold – and so does glass. That’s fine, unless you’re shooting by a lake or large area of moisture – and guess what, that happens to be the location of some of the least light polluted scenes in the world. Ooops, we have a problem!

Frost Ice Lens Cold Night Sky Photography Paul Reiffer Guide To Shooting Stars Canon Metal Body Frozen Freeze Below Zero Out Of Focus Milky Way New Zealand Tekapo Lake

No worries though, it’s fixable – just don’t breathe on your fogged up lens! The moisture in your breath will make it worse.

Instead, put a (hopefully warm!) finger inside a clean lens cloth and slowly use the tiny bit of heat to melt the ice around the front element while the cloth will prevent scratches. This is also where “weatherproof” cameras come in to play, along with carbon fibre tripods (which don’t freeze as easily) and memory cards such as SanDisk’s Extreme Pro series which work across a massive temperature range. Of course, if you’re shooting in the summer you won’t have the issue of freezing equipment (be careful with the opposite issue of heat!) but do be aware of the environment in which you’re expecting your kit to perform. I’ve even seen hand-warmers taped directly to camera bodies for this – generally not a good idea as they get too hot, but you can see the lengths some go to to avoid the freeze-up!

And that’s it! Click away, capture as much of the night sky as possible and review on the screen after every shot. It’s important to zoom in on any previews to make sure your focus is still accurate as things can turn and move while changing settings. Once you’ve got that great shot, it’s also time to experiment such as different colours of light-paiinting or using any zoom on your lens to generate a “warp” towards the stars in-camera. (A great idea I borrowed from my friend Wayne!) Take a look at the below images – the one on the left is a straight up shot, the one on the right is a single frame too, but with the zoom used for around half of the exposure :-)

Experiment Milky Way Galaxy Universe Astro Photography Shooting Guide How To Night Paul Reiffer Professional Photographer New Zealand Zoom Tricks Lens Canon Stars Sky Core Winter

And that’s it! Simple, really – and so very effective. I see and hear some photographers trying to turn star photography into a dark mystical art, when really it’s one of the simplest things to capture once you have the right settings and are stood in a good place. Of course, they don’t want you to know that, but why not give it a try? You might find it’s a very easy way of creating some amazing images with the kit you already have! Having a mobile base was key for us doing this type of photography, allowing us to run back into the warm in remote locations when needed – but often, you can get some amazing night sky views from your own back yard!

Jucy Casa Campervan Touring New Zealand Photography Tour Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional South Island Winter Ice Rentals Campa Camper Lake Tekapo Otago Cantebury Night Sky Shooting

And as always, to finish on, here are Paul’s “bonus top tips” – essential to life 😉

  1. Beans on Toast are a great thing to wake up to in the morning after freezing cold star photography
  2. In New Zealand, Jimmy’s Pies have an incredible way of warming you up at night
  3. While they may look stupid, my North Face “sleeping bag boots” win over anything else for warmth!

Essentials For After Night Sky Galaxy Stars Shooting Night Winter Beans Toast Snow Boots Jimmys Pies New Zealand Winter South Island Professional Photography

Have fun! :-)

Posted in Creative, Equipment, Industry, iPhone, Landscape, Night Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Sunset Parasailing in the Maldives – The Human Drone

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What an amazing view! I’ve seen many sunsets during my time shooting in the Maldives, but never have I seen it in context of the entire island of Huvafen Fushi from above…

Granted, my title is a little wrong – by definition a “drone” is “an unmanned aircraft or ship that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond line of sight”. But then, bearing that definition in mind, none of the so-called drones out there for sale to the public for the purposes of capturing photo and video are strictly within the rules either 😉

So in this day and age (and given I have some DJI Phantoms sitting around too) – why bother to go up strapped to a parachute on a line from the back of a boat? Well, two reasons…

parasail paul reiffer aerial photography professional luxury resorts huvafen fushi maldives per aquum above sky behind the scenes bts nikon

First, I can capture images “up there” that are still not quite possible from a quadcopter/drone/[whatever you want to call it]. Technology has come on a long way in the past few years, and people like DJI really have pushed the boundaries when it comes to consumer as well as professional aircraft – but there’s still something missing. You see, on the currently available kit, you have two choices: 1) An in-built or small camera (max 12MP) which will allow you to live-preview what it sees as it flies or 2) A monster of a drone that can carry a full DSLR kit up there, but with no live preview or feedback.

The small cameras struggle with filters and resolution, the large cameras can be a little like shooting in the dark (from what I’ve seen of the professional video crews using them so far). So, if I wanted to shoot sunset at a decent resolution and get it right, this seemed like a better option.

from above parasail paul reiffer aerial photography professional luxury resorts huvafen fushi maldives per aquum island sky behind the scenes bts nikon

The second reason – it’s nice up there! Yes, there’s a speedboat moving beneath you (but you don’t hear that). It’s really calm, peaceful, and you’re alone with your own thoughts, high up above the Indian Ocean. I can tell you now, while it’s not the easiest thing to manoeuvre your arms into the “right spot” for the shot, and there’s certainly no way of doing any long exposures(!), it was a lot more relaxed than skydiving and a fantastic way to end the day.

Getting up there with my Phase One gear might have been a bit of a struggle, but my “little” Nikon mirror-less with a compact system filter kit on the front did the job just fine. (And I didn’t drop it in the end, as an added bonus!)

So did I get the shot I wanted? Well, I only wanted one – and I ended up with about 20 that could easily sit on my desktop as a reminder of what paradise looks like in the Maldives!

huvafen fushi per aquum maldives island resort aerial sunset shot professional photography paul reiffer landscape commercial parasail 2

Does that mean I won’t shoot with a drone in future? Of course not – and I have a new one on the way shortly too… 😉

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California Workshop – Bonsai Rock & Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

lake tahoe gateway paul reiffer california professional photographer phase one medium format landscape sunrise emerald bay water sky reflection

Welcome to the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe, spanning across the state lines of California and Nevada on the West Coast of the USA.

Taken at sunrise, the shot above was the result of quite a bit of waiting, anticipation, depression (as the clouds looked like ruining the morning) and a severe lack of sleep! As part of the workshop I was running across California, Mark and Martyn came along to the lookout point over the Tea house on one of Lake Tahoe’s most stunning vistas – Emerald Bay.

gateway emerald bay lake tahoe south california view vista landscape wide angle forest national state tea house island reflections sunrise clouds paul reiffer phase one behind the scenes bts

Not wanting to push our luck too much from the night before (explained below!), while disappointed by the thick layer of cloud to the East on arrival, we were all determined to get the best shot possible given the circumstances. At 5:00am, it genuinely is freezing up there, despite it being the end of May, and the lure of the warmth coming from the car was almost too much to ignore as we waited for the sky to change and sun to make an appearance. In the end, the sun did actually “pop through” the clouds on the horizon, but by that point the soft light had gone – never mind, I’d been lucky enough to get the shot I wanted (top) a few minutes before – “Gateway” is now available to purchase as a limited edition print too!

So, what of the night before?

rain storm photographing shooting bonsai rock lake tahoe location iphone behind the scenes bts what i see right now phase one camera paul reiffer

Well, having driven for 5 hours to get to our sunset location, looking out of the sunroof to see permanent rain was not on my list of high-points for the trip. But, I had a feeling… We waited it out – cloud was shifting (and fast), and towards the West there were bigger and bigger clearings to be seen.

Bonsai Rock, at Incline Village on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, is not actually a rock with bonsai trees – they’re just trees that are slightly stunted in growth (due to their location) and as a result of their distance from the land, simply look like bonsais. That said, it’s still an iconic shot, and a location I’d never visited to try to capture.

The gamble paid off. After 25 minutes in the car, the skies gave a hint of backing off, and the rain slowed. We started the trek down to the shore (remembering that when shooting sunset, that means hiking back in the dark!) and set up. The place itself is a lot smaller than I imagined, but hey – it was exactly the view I wanted…

photographing shooting bonsai rock lake tahoe location iphone behind the scenes bts what i see right now phase one camera paul reiffer

Clicking away, I loaded filter after filter to capture the fantastic moving textures in the sky – as well as soften the water. Even in May, this is snowmelt in the lake, and it’s a pond full of freezing cold fresh water that shows blue on any shot; wonderful.

A few 15, 30 and 60 second exposures later, with my tripod perched precariously on the smooth surface of a load of round rocks, I had the shot I wanted. In a weird way, it’s also quite unique – many other shots of the same location show a lot less rocks, mainly because Lake Tahoe itself is normally a lot deeper. This year’s lack of snow and rain means we got to see more of the lake bed exposed than normal – and a rather different shot than many I’ve seen before :-)

bonsai rock lake tahoe trees incline village nevada california city water sunset clouds landscape professional photographer paul reiffer usa discover

Mark and Martyn had similar successes at the same location – and it’s one that (while I’m happy with the shot I now have) I’ll probably be revisiting in the not-too-distant future 😉

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Top 10 Tips on How to Take the Best Vacation Travel Photos

It’s vacation season! (Well, “holiday” season when you grew up in my part of the world, but let’s not split hairs… 😉 )

And it seems my “Top 10 tips” have made it into a few publications, including today’s update on ShutterBug. With that in mind, I figured it would probably be a good idea to put a copy of them up on my own site too, so – here goes…! 😉

1. Don’t Let the Camera Restrict What You Do

Remember: you’re on vacation! Don’t make the mistake of spending all your time trying to capture memories that you’re actually missing with your own eyes.

From an equipment perspective, also consider which camera is most suited to your type of vacation. If travelling around to experience the culture of a place, maybe taking the biggest SLR camera you can find with five huge lenses isn’t the best idea. If I’m on “a real vacation” instead of a photo trip, quite often I’ll simply take my iPhone or compact camera; nothing which has an interchangeable lens. Storage space and battery life are two of the most common problems people encounter when snapping away, so make sure you have a spare battery or external charger, as well as enough storage space before you go.

01 Dont Let Camera Restrict Top Tips Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional Landscape Travel City Vacation Photographs Best holiday

2. Get Out of “Auto” Mode02 out of auto Top Tips Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional Landscape Travel City Vacation Photographs Best

Sure, cameras have some amazing tricks these days and are great at capturing an image, which is technically correct for that scene. But often the most interesting images can be found when we break the rules the camera’s “auto” setting is bound by.

Try using the “shutter” mode to experiment with longer exposures and motion as well as shorter exposures to freeze action. Give the “Aperture” mode a go to play with depth of field, leaving the background of a shot out of focus while the foreground remains sharp is a great way of targeting what you wanted the viewer to really concentrate on.

3. Night Photography is Fun! 

Get in amongst the action, whether it’s people playing games outside in the evening or the busy streets of a huge city, a long exposure can capture the buzz and energy that helps make the photograph feel like you’re still there. Using apps like Slow Shutter on a smartphone, or the long-exposure mode of your camera, along with a tripod, you can get some very different shots that will be far more interesting than what you’d get just leaving it on “auto”!

03 night photography Top Tips Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional Landscape Travel City Vacation Photographs Best holiday

4. Get Involved in the Action: Don’t Just Stand There! 04 get involved Top Tips Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional Landscape Travel City Vacation Photographs Best holiday

If you look for that interesting angle, you’ll likely find it by getting down low and shooting up, or getting closer in to the scene. Zoom lenses mean we’ve become a little lazy when composing an image, but there is a big difference in an image that is taken up-close compared to one taken from far away by simply zooming in. Try it: you’ll see how the two images differ. Quite often I find myself on the floor taking photos, the angles you can get are different from the other 1,000 people stood around me taking shots all at 5-6-foot high, as they stand and click.

5. Step Away from the Selfie Stick!

It was bad enough seeing every single photograph with an extended arm in it, but even worse now we see those horrible “selfie sticks” in the bottom of the frame! A few selfies can be fun, but they can get a little boring if every shot is the same. Try to be more creative with the way you capture yourself. The reflection in some sunglasses, building windows with you and the location in, or even car mirrors (as a passenger!) as you’re driving down an amazing coastal highway can all deliver shots which are more unique than the standard arms-length pout that has become the norm for many.

05 anti selfie Top Tips Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional Landscape Travel City Vacation Photographs Best holidays

6. The Best Camera Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the Best Pictures

It really is true that “the best camera in the world is the one you have with you” – whether that’s a smart phone or a big “large format” system, it doesn’t matter – the camera is simply there to record a moment in time. A lot of people invest in some amazing gear but never get to use it to its full potential; whatever gear you have, it can take amazing images, it’s just a case of using it in the best way. Take your camera out for a day or two to play with all the settings before you jump in the car or on a plane, you’ll find you enjoy capturing the memories a lot more when you know how best to use it.

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7. Long Exposures Can Make Things Really Interesting

Even smart phones now have apps like Slow Shutter to allow for long exposure shots, and it’s worth investing in them or a camera capable of shooting for more than 2-3 seconds. At night, long exposures bring out details your eye may not even be able to see as well as cool “traffic trails” if you’re shooting in a city. In the day, it’s how you can capture clouds moving or motion in a scene. Just bear in mind you’ll need something steady to hold the camera on for these (some great flexible mini tripods are out there now) and if you plan to shoot long exposures in the daytime, you may want to look into a “neutral density” filter to allow you to keep the shutter open for longer.

07 Long Exposures Top Tips Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional Landscape Travel City Vacation Photographs Best

8) Take Photos of the Smaller Details of Your Trip

Small details help to tell the story when you’re looking back at your time somewhere. Quite often we’re so worried about getting the whole scene in, we forget that it’s the smaller things that can also capture the culture and feel of a place. Snap shots of the fruit at the farmers market, the fishing nets on a boat, a local character who you remember fondly in a city, or some of the local wildlife, they all make for interesting memories when you flick through later. Just remember that if you intend to take photos of local people and their culture, you must respect the local customs in regards to public photography, and ask for permission beforehand.

08 Smaller Details Top Tips Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional Landscape Travel City Vacation Photographs Best

09 Get Up High Top Tips Paul Reiffer Photographer Professional Landscape Travel City Vacation Photographs Best

9. Get Up High! 

Lots of hotels offer high rooms with views for a small supplement and many also have roof terraces which have some of the best views over a location. If you’re taking professional gear along, it’s always best to check with the staff before “setting up” on their balcony, but generally they’ll accommodate you as long as it’s only for personal use. Be careful shooting through glass though; you’ll often need something dark to cover the area around the camera in order to prevent reflections – a problem that lots of tower observatories have! Shooting at night through your hotel room window? You’ll need a tripod, and to sit in complete darkness in your room in order to avoid all the reflections in your shot.

10) Make Use of Soft Light

You’ll hear photographers refer to the “blue hour” and “golden hour”: these are the times an hour either side of sunrise and sunset when the light is softer and more flattering, but also the time when some of the finer details of a view can become more defined. Be warned, this can take a bit of planning in order to get into the right spot for “that shot” and will undoubtedly mean early starts for the morning light. But you can always spend the middle of the day visiting museums, galleries or of course go shopping! Just remember to leave some energy for the sunsets too!

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WPP Brandz Top 100 Global Brands – Tiny Planets

It’s that time of year again – the “WPP Brandz Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands” has just been released for 2015, and this year (their 10th anniversary) it features a subset of my Tiny Planets series.

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Contained within the 100-page publication, there’s analysis on every section of the world, along with insight into which brands are making headlines and commanding huge value.

wpp brandz top 100 paul reiffer tiny planets professional photography brand book world 2015 2

In between each section, you’ll find an introduction featuring a subset of my cityscapes re-formed as Tiny Planets, and re-worked to be as up to date as possible. When you’re including places like Shanghai, the photo really does need to be from within the past month or it’s an old skyline!

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Each major geography is covered, with insight into the sheer scale of some of these operations. With single and double-page spreads, there’s a lot of photography contained within, alongside a huge amount of analysis and insight :-)

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And to do it? Well, the “app” versions of the Tiny Planets simply aren’t up to scaling and printing at a decent resolution so every single one of my cityscapes were modified by hand to create a seamless “world” to present each location. Oh, and quite a few of them are brand new too 😉

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We have Shanghai’s crazy ever-changing skyline over the bund, now featuring the Shanghai Tower, completed this year.

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From New York, the now-completed Freedom Tower now features as the star of the show when photographing the financial district downtown.

tiny planets dubai paul reiffer photographer wpp landscapes professional publication

Along with Tokyo, Dubai’s series now features its most iconic tower – the Burj Khalifa – which actually creates a problem when forming a globe: It’s so much bigger than everything else, it actually throws the “planet” off-center!

Keep an eye out for more Tiny Planet work, and for those interested in which brands really are the most valuable right now, you could do worse than checking out the WPP Brandz guide yourself… 😉

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