Photography Workshops announced – California, May 2015

It’s been a long time in the planning, but we’ve finally managed to pull together an itinerary that allows me to take 6-8 people “out on the road” for a journey across some of the most distinctive and impressive landscape views available in the USA. I’ll be offering an Asia workshop later in the year too, but for now it’s all about California with my “Going from Hot to Gold” photography workshop in May 2015!

Driving Into Death Valley iPhone

From Las Vegas (which, I know, isn’t California – but it’s a good starting point!) we’ll be heading into the desert floor of Death Valley for a few nights before travelling to Mono Lake, Bodie, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Napa and San Francisco. Throughout the trip, I’ll be there guiding and assisting you in getting the very best from your camera equipment and the locations we’re visiting.

This is a full 12 days of shooting, with sunrises, sunsets, even night photography included, in a photographic workshop that is going to be as educational as it is fun, not least for the road-trip aspect alone. With the views we’ll be taking in, I’m confident that a few award-winning photographs could be taken during the workshop and I’ll be there to help you do just that!

professional photography landscape workshop death valley san francisco paul reiffer award winning

So, what can you look forward to photographing? Well, take a look through the work across my site – we’ll be heading to some of these views (plus many more) as we take time in each location to get the best shot possible in each and every case. We’ll go for iconic views as well as the more obscure and creative angles, culminating in the capture of motion-filled cityscapes as we head into San Francisco for the final part of the journey.

professional landscape photography workshop california 2015 paul reiffer yosemite san francisco las vegas death valley mono lake tahoe

If you’d like to know more about the workshop, with detailed itinerary and pricing, just click here to read on and book now.

itinerary for Paul Reiffer professional photography workshop California 2015itinerary for Paul Reiffer professional photography workshop California 2015itinerary for Paul Reiffer professional photography workshop California 2015

Places are strictly limited to ensure that we can spend the right amount of time with everyone – so don’t hesitate if you want to guarantee your place! It’ll be great to have you along for the trip :-)


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Shanghai Calling 2 : The Phase One Difference

It’s the one thing I promised myself I would never do after I upgraded my equipment from my Canon gear to a Phase One Medium Format system : re-shooting a cityscape I had already captured.

Shanghai Calling 2 Phase One Difference Nine Dragon Freeway Elevated Road Interchange Intersection Lights Blue Night City Cityscape Skyscrapers Skyline Medium Format iQ280 645DF Mamiya Paul Reiffer Professional Landscape Photographer

But the lure of Shanghai’s rooftops on a clear night was just too strong, and here I found myself shooting “Shanghai Calling 2″ with my 645DF+ and iQ280 digital back.

behind the scenes shooting shanghai calling 2 phase one iQ280 cityscape iPhone panoramic rooftop city

Now, before I go any further, let my just clarify one point: I LOVE my Canon EOS cameras. They’ve served me well and the quality they produce is fantastic for the price point. When shooting concerts or action, I would always reach for my 1DX and 5D3 “combo” as my first selection, but one of the biggest reasons I invested in the iQ280 series in the first place was the resolution it could produce for landscape images and so far I have always been impressed.

Original Shanghai Calling Limited Edition Print Paul Reiffer Photographer Cityscape Night Canon 5D Mk 3It began as a regular planned cityscape shoot – capturing traffic trails and lights around the elevated roads at night along with the “Nine-Dragon Intersection”. (There’s a myth/story about deaths caused when the roads were built so a huge metal statue was constructed where the freeways join). The problem is, that same intersection is looked down upon by one of my first, and favourite, rooftop adventure buildings in the city and all I could do was keep looking up.

So while this was never intended to be a “product comparison” shoot, I couldn’t resist the urge to see how my Phase One equipment would perform in comparison to my original Canon EOS 5D mk III shot from a while back – “Shanghai Calling” (image on the right).

Obviously, atmospheric conditions change, as do buildings and their lighting setups over a period of years. So there was naturally going to be a little bit of difference in the two shots – not least of course being the difference in effect based on the pollution level of each day. And on the face of it, both camera systems did amazingly well.

It’s a challenging environment. Not only do you have wind blasting from all angles, but it’s pitch black up there with many obstacles on the roof, no safety barriers once you get your equipment up “on the ledge” and a friendly (ish) security guard counting the seconds you’re up there putting his job at risk. This time, I also had the benefit of my new Giottos Silk Road 3D tripod that allowed me to push the arm out over the edge of the building to get an unobscured shot (don’t worry, I checked below first!).

Granted, the lens itself has a huge, huge, impact on the final image quality at any point – but it’s a bit difficult to use the same piece of glass between Medium Format and 35mm systems, so I’ve had to stick with comparing the Phase One AF 28 mm f/4.5 A (17mm 35mm equivalent) to my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. Both are fine pieces of engineering in their own right, but from a cost perspective one is 4-5x more expensive than the other. Likewise, the sensors are in different leagues – the Phase One 80MP Full-Frame Medium Format 645 CCD vs. the 22.3MP CMOS 35mm is somewhat of a David and Goliath scenario at best (at worst, a completely unfair comparison). But hey, I wasn’t trying to see if my iQ280 was better, I wanted to see how much better it was…

(Let’s call it post-purchase-rationalisation ;-) )

So here we go – here is the overall map of the new image, below. I’ve selected 3 very tricky sections to compare, and specifically chosen areas in the distance which are affected more in terms of and light blur, overexposure and distortion.

  • An area with lots of neon lines and potential barrel distortion.
  • One of the darkest areas in the image to see how low-light detail is captured.
  • An area with a lot of detail blown out but also the Pearl Tower which is deceptively far away in comparison to the rest of the scene.

Medium Format Phase One iQ280 Comparison Canon 5D mk 3 III Professional Cityscape Image Map Shanghai Paul Reiffer

The samples (close-up) are below, but these are also only very small versions of the full crop. If you click on any of the following images, you’ll be able to download the full 100% comparison (around 4MB each file).

At this point I have to mention one thing: The Canon image was already “tweaked” in Photoshop, to add some sharpness and fix the colour balance of this tricky scene (bright blue, red, yellow and white lights against a dark background can cause issues for any camera).

The Phase One image, on the other hand, while processed using Capture One Pro 8 as a raw converter has NOT been touched in Photoshop at all. This is out of the camera, no sharpness tweaks, no playing with colour (even in Capture One) – and for that reason alone, I’m amazed.

The Canon image was shot at f/16, ISO 100 and 20 seconds. The Phase One image is f/12, ISO 35, 30 seconds.

Area 1 Shanghai Calling 2 Comparison Phase One Medium Format iQ280 Compare Canon 5D mk 3 III sharpness calrity

Area 2 Shanghai Calling 2 Comparison Phase One Medium Format iQ280 Compare Canon 5D mk 3 III sharpness calrity

Area 3 Shanghai Calling 2 Comparison Phase One Medium Format iQ280 Compare Canon 5D mk 3 III sharpness calrity

Please do have a look up-close with these images. The difference is staggering (and rightly so) – let’s be clear here, we’re comparing around $4,000 of equipment against around $50,000 with just the one lens setup. On the scale of unfair comparisons, this one is off the chart – but wow. The richness of colour, the details, the sharpness and depth of the image coming out of the iQ280 is in a different league to anything the 35mm sensor can deliver.

So what did I learn? That the camera system nearly 13x more expensive than the other one produces better images? Of course, but we all knew that already! I guess I’ve at least confirmed it to myself now! :-) . To say I’m happy with my new equipment would be an understatement, and this has cemented my opinion that the iQ280 digital back is a phenomenal piece of technology (as is the rest of the system itself). But no, as I left my computer comparing these two images, I actually got a really bad feeling inside – why had I even tried to judge them in the first place?

close comparison phase one iQ280 canon 5D mk 3

Technically, it’s interesting to see the comparison – but for a brief moment I’d forgotten the one thing that I hold with the utmost importance when I’m shooting: I take pictures to capture how it felt to stand at that point, at that moment, right now. My Canon gear had been with me for years before the switch, and I absolutely LOVE the images I took with it. Not only because the quality of shots is fantastic in its own right, but also because each image I have captured brings back memories and reminders of how it felt to be there.

Standing on top of the same building, shooting the same scene, just to see if it “could be captured better” felt a little empty. The excitement was gone – there was something missing at that moment; it had become a technical challenge, not an adventure. I am absolutely blown away by the quality of my new shot from that rooftop – up close, it looks amazing. But being there as a photographer, it simply didn’t feel the same as the first time I made it to the rooftop, looked over the side and said “woah!”.

My Phase One equipment really is the best camera system I can imagine owning right now in the world – and for this I am extremely grateful that I’m fortunate enough to have it with me. But does that in itself make any other camera “less good”? No, of course not.

I still maintain that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you right now. Whether that’s a Phase One Medium Format system, a Canon EOS DSLR or an iPhone camera – capturing the memory of what you see right now is what it’s all about. The highest quality image is just an added bonus when you also have the right gear!

So, it’s time to take my Phase back out to some new and unique locations instead…!


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Tiny Planets – Cityscape Skylines as Miniature Worlds

This is Auckland, but not as we know it :-)

tiny planet auckland night lights cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

This is the “Tiny Planet” version of my cityscape from New Zealand in June this year – and while only a bit of fun, I think it looks rather cool!

Spending a week or so resting at Huvafen Fushi, I finally had time to start playing with some Apps I downloaded a long while ago. While there are much better (and higher resolution) ways of achieving the same thing in Photoshop, the “click-button” ease of these iPhone tools is quite staggering – and it all started with this shot, a panoramic image I took of my camera capturing sunset on top of a Shanghai skyscraper:

tiny planet phase one shanghai BTS shooting k11 mall top city phase one giottos sunset panoramic cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

So, it’s a bit blurry at the outer edges, and isn’t a truly full-360, but hey – it’s a bit of fun :-) Having loaded it up onto Facebook, I had quite a few people guessing as to how it was done as it really is a different way of looking at a city. And that got me thinking: What would my cityscapes look like when ran through the same process of mapping the bottom edge to the center and stretching the outside. Lucky for me it only took a click or two to find out, and here we go with Singapore’s Marina Bay to start:

tiny planet singapore marina bay harbour skyscrapers night lights sunset cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

Shanghai, of course, can be best viewed at night, and here’s the wraparound of my shot from a while back with the Shanghai Tower under construction:

tiny planet shanghai pudong skyline oriental pearl tower swfc lights neon river cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

How about a bit closer to my home-town? Here’s London’s Tower Bridge just before sunrise in May.  (Here you can see where the blending on these Apps isn’t perfect, but still – I love the effect!):

tiny planet london tower bridge sunrise long exposure blue cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

What about Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights show? In person, it’s not quite the “spectacle” that it is built up to be, but hey – as a tiny planet it looks quite appealing :-)

tiny planet hong kong night symphony of lights show skyscrapers cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

New York, New York? Here, my skyline photograph was taken to almost cartoon format by the tool as the Empire State Building projects outwards as the tallest thing in frame…

tiny planet new york city manhattan empire state building rockefeller cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

I’m lucky to have this shot of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at night (you can read all about it here) – but when it comes to recognisable skylines, this city has one of the most distinctive buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers/KLCC:

tiny planet kuala lumpur kl klcc petronas towers night traffic light stream malaysia capital city cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

Sydney’s skyline is of course cool without any “tricks” anyway, but playing with my sunset shot gave it something a bit different – a crest of clouds:

tiny planet sydney sunset bridge harbour grand opera house tower sea cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

Back to London at night, for St. Paul’s Cathedral with the Millennium Bridge casting an upside-down heart shape in the middle of the frame – I didn’t see that one coming!

tiny planet london st pauls cathedral millennium bridge night long exposure city empty skyline cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

While at the top of this post, my favourite Auckland “tiny planet” is actually now this shot, below, of the daytime skyline from the other side of the harbour. In June I said the regular shot already looked like a toy-town, but wow, this version of it is almost plastic…!

tiny planet auckland day new zealand sky tower cityscape paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

Of course, it doesn’t only have to be cityscapes that get a cool new look from this method – while staying at Huvafen Fushi it would have been rude not to give it a try on one of my favourite overwater shots – Huvafen Fushi’s spa. :-)

tiny planet huvafen fushi spa maldives sunrise overwater paul reiffer professional landscape commercial photographer

So, photographically, are they the best quality or “perfect” images? Absolutely not. But they do give a cool new sense of looking down on the same scene that you normally see laid flat across your eyes. For that, just the simple act of giving us a different perspective, I think this is something that more people should try out…!

Now, to get back to relaxing :-)

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RPS International Print Exhibition 157 – Featured

There’s something really nice about arriving back in England for a few days to find some of your work, in print, waiting for you at home.

rps print exhibition catalogue 157 paul reiffer nanpu bridge over the rainbow london photographer

This year the Royal Photographic Society has produced its 157th International Print Exhibition, featuring my image of Shanghai’s Nanpu Bridge – “Over The Rainbow” and both the RPS Journal as well as the Print Exhibition Catalogue were sat waiting for me to read when I got back from Shanghai.

As the longest standing exhibition of its kind in the world (it’s been held almost every year since 1854), it’s quite an honour to get an image featured in the show, but there are two other reasons I’m particularly happy about this one.

online gallery rps international print exhibition 157 royal albert hall greenwich over the rainbow 100 final paul reiffer professional landscape photographer

First, the RPS Print Exhibitions are known to be very “people heavy”. By that, I mean most images selected for the final show feature people – whether through portraiture shots or as components to a story, it’s a prominent attribute of a huge percentage of the 100 prints. On that basis, to get a landscape photograph of a road in the show is quite some going…!

empty gallery setup people rps print exhibition 157 paul reiffer nanpu bridge over the rainbow london photographer

And secondly, the RPS have been kind enough to actually feature my image twice – once as a standard print along with all others on display in the exhibition. The second copy, however, is a larger print that is shown at the entrance to the show to welcome visitors – very cool :-)

gallery setup people rps print exhibition 157 paul reiffer nanpu bridge over the rainbow london photographer

Now the obvious downside to living 6,000 miles away is the limited time I have to go and see not only my own work but also that of the other 99 photographers on show. This weekend’s 4-day trip didn’t allow me to make it to the exhibition in its opening leg (above) at the Greenwich Heritage Centre, but huge thanks to Sally Smart at the RPS for the images here. So instead, the plan is to catch it at the Royal Albert Hall in January when it is displayed there instead. For those interested in taking a look, here’s the touring schedule for the exhibition over the next 12 months:

  • 31 July – 28 August 2014. Berkeley Gallery, Greenwich Heritage Centre, London
  • 6 September – 8 November 2014. Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales
  • 22 November – 10 January 2015. Banbury Museum & Art Gallery, near Oxford
  • 16 January – 15 February 2015. Royal Albert Hall, London
  • 14 March – 10 May 2015. Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford
  • 4 – 30 June 2015. Waterfront Hall, Belfast (Belfast Photo Festival)

More information can also be found here on the RPS website. Anyone wanting to pop along is of course more than welcome – and those in London, I may see you there at the Royal Albert Hall :-)

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Myst – The willow trees of Glenorchy, New Zealand

The bitterness of the cold winter mist across Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy is the strongest memory I have of taking this photograph. Granted, it’s turned out better than I could have hoped for given my initial trip to these famous willow trees the night before – but wow, the weather really made me work for it.

myst glenorchy willow tree solo silhouette lake water reflection blue morning sunrise winter cold fog mist paul reiffer professional landscape photographer photograph new zealand lake wakatipu

“Myst” – print available to buy now

The shot above, “myst” was actually taken around 7:30am, just before sunrise, and as the ground temperature shifted so did the fog – leaving these sweeping bands of blue and white streaming across the frame during the 60 second long exposure. Full of atmosphere, this shot couldn’t have been further from what we arrived to the afternoon before:

glenorchy lake arrival bright mountains willows iphone photo

glenorchy iphone phase one sunset lake wakatipu willow trees silhouette reflectionThat above is an iPhone shot of one of the clusters of willow trees that run through the lake, at around 4pm the day before. Hoping to catch the sunset over the eerie-looking trees, we’d driven from Queenstown that afternoon only to find a really difficult scene to capture. To get to a proper area, you had to climb (with all camera equipment) across unstable floating clumps of earth, fallen logs and a collection of rocks.

The problem with that setup underfoot (as I learned) is quite how frustrating it can be when the perfectly still water ripples every time you so much as breathe…

The contrast between the bright sky and really dark foreground as a result of the mountain shadow was also one of exposure. Even with all my filters with me, it was proving a tough one to get and looking at the back of the camera, I noticed that every single shot was missing something: atmosphere.

Having failed to get a decent sunset shot, I was ready to give up until a friendly local photographer told me some “bad news” about Glenorchy mornings: “there’s always loads of fog over the lake, you can’t see a thing”, he said. Bad news? Hmmm… I now knew I had to come back to shoot the next morning!

First Light Glenorchy Pier Jetty Morning New Zealand Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Frost Sunrise Mist Fog Paul Reiffer Photographer Landscape Atmosphere

And this was the morning after. Driving through the dark along winding icy roads is not exactly fun, but on approaching Glenorchy around an hour before sunrise, the fog was clearly there and ready to play. Before shooting the trees themselves I decided to grab a shot of the rustic jetty, above, which the day before had been full of tourists throwing stones into the lake. “First light” hit us around 7:45, half an hour before sunrise, and it was time to climb across the rough marsh-ground to get in position for the trees. What a difference only 12 hours can make!

morning mist glenorchy lake wakatipu willow trees line sunrise cold winter

So, with no other photographers or tourists around (or willing to brave the sub-zero temperatures), I got clicking. As the sun rose behind the mountains, the temperature change caused the fog to rapidly sweep across the lake – a long exposure could be interesting here…

photographing glenorchy willows willow trees iphone phase one morning mist paul reiffer

And I was right. Not only was the top image (“Myst”) created with a 60 second exposure, but 30 seconds was also used for the shot below of “The Three Witches” as they branch out across New Zealand’s otherwise still Lake Wakatipu. The colours changed as the sun rose further (as you can see above in the iPhone shots) to a cleaner, daylight temperature, but not before I had chance to capture the images I was hoping for.

3 witches glenorchy willow trees morning mist long exposure blue sunrise winter cold paul reiffer professional landscape photographer new zealand lake wakatipu

Granted, the night before had been a disappointment. The sunset hadn’t delivered what I was expecting; the water levels were too high; tourists were causing the lake to be full of ripples and waves and there really was no “atmosphere” to the images I did manage to capture. Looking back on Glenorchy from the Queenstown road, below, it’s clear to see what that local photographer meant about the fog. In reality, it was a good warning – had it been any more dense, it would have ruined the entire morning’s shoot – but I’d been lucky.

glenorchy approach queenstown lake wakatipu new zealand pigeon pig island fog mist morning paul reiffer professional landscape photographs

Fog is exactly what I needed to create an abstract mood and ice cold atmosphere that reflects the reality of how it felt that morning to be stood there, taking photographs. Luckily, that morning, the weather gave me “just the right amount”. :-)

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Fashion & Fitness model – Alipasa Selimovic in Shanghai

Alipasa Selimovic jeans wall Fashion Fitness Model Bosnia and Herzegovina shirtless topless model underwear portfolio agency shoot photographer professional paul reiffer shanghai

It’s an industry I’ll always hold a huge amount of respect for – not only did I learn the foundations of my own photography from those I worked with as a model many years (and burgers) ago, but the techniques I was taught at the time stay with me to this day when it comes to posing others in fashion and fitness shots.

Although primarily now shooting landscape and commercial work, every now and then it’s nice to have a break and go “back to the old days” of shooting new talent as they grow their careers with agencies around the world. Such was this shoot with Alipasa Selimovic, a model from Bosnia and Herzegovina working out here in Shanghai for one of the city’s agencies.

Alipasa Selimovic orange trunks Fashion Fitness Model Bosnia and Herzegovina shirtless topless model underwear portfolio agency shoot photographer professional paul reiffer shanghai

This series really does demonstrate the fact that for all the fancy backgrounds many studios boast, at the end of the day, a good portfolio look can be done with something as simple as a balcony wall with great natural light. None of these shots used any form of flash or artificial light – it’s purely the power of the sun at work (and the natural diffuser we have here in Shanghai – a constant layer of pollution!).

Alipasa Selimovic jeans black jacket steps industrial Fashion Fitness Model Bosnia and Herzegovina shirtless topless model underwear portfolio agency shoot photographer professional paul reiffer shanghai

Of course, you can’t thank the sun for all the “chiselling-out” work here – the shadows are simply defining his own physique to the camera. As a fashion and fitness model, Ali has a great look right now – let’s hope the guys in the Asian market think so too ;-)

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Portal – Capturing Xingping, the Guilin Mountains that Reach Up to the Sky

As they say, there are three types of lies in this world: Lies, damned lies and… weather reports. If I’d actually paid attention to the forecast, I would never have witnessed (let alone photographed) this scene in Xingping, near Guilin in Southern china.

portal guilin xingping mountains Laozhai river li sunrise clouds storm rock formations paul reiffer professional landscape photographer china guangxi

Titled “portal”, this image represents a painful 3 days with almost no sleep – so maybe I’m too attached to it – but still, I do love that view.

While my inability to speak Mandarin can cause problems, luckily I have a few good friends here in Shanghai who are more than willing to help out in terms of getting to locations that I’m trying to capture. This would be one of those trips – my friend “ST” helped so much with all the arrangements and local guides/cars, it basically left me to just click away as we headed from viewpoint to viewpoint! :-)

Now of course, when you check the weather report on the morning of your flight to take photos, the last thing you want to see is what we got that day – 100% rain, all day, every day.

Do we cancel? No – as sometimes the forecasts are wrong. Checking with a few locals, it appears that during the early summer period Guilin (and Xingping, in Guangxi province) is always forecast rain simply due to the amount of moisture that sits permanently in the air. We boarded our flight and went for it.

rice fields guangxi guilin army military base farm houses green mountains paul reiffer china

Arriving in town, it seemed the weather was a little better than expected – with blue patches of sky every now and then too. That afternoon we headed south with our guide and his driver to get to the outskirts of the natural scenic area. I say “natural”, in fact the shot above is of a farm located inside a military base. Yes – we had to hide down low in the car as our guide (who knew them) persuaded them to grant us access. Cool though these mountains were, they weren’t quite what I had in mind when it came to sunrise or sunset shots over the huge monolithic rocks – we needed a different plan. What we didn’t realise until that point was that the “comfort” of the Shangri-La hotel in Guilin where we had booked was actually useless in terms of location when it comes to getting to the mountains in Xingping for sunrise. We would be checking out at 3:00am the next day and finding a new hotel. Ouch.

Guilin Xingping Laozhai Mountains Guanxi China Li River Sunrise iphone weather report paul reiffer photographer

Looking at the weather once again (well, why not?), it felt like this could be a complete waste of time as we set out in the car. Driving through wind, rain, fog, mist, the works – it didn’t get better. That is, until we started the mountain climb. What had been a view of nothing for the hour before had just delivered a small point of light in the sky: the moon. Well, if we can see the moon, that means there’s a clearing – things had started to look up :-)

Sadly, my days of standing in front of the camera are long gone, and so has my fitness level. I can tell you, when you stop at a car park in the middle of the night and your guide points up to the highest mountain you can just make out in the distance, the last words you want to hear are “we climb here”. Great. We started, we were alone, I figured at least the effort of carrying nearly 20kg of gear with me up that mountain would be worth it when we got to the top – surely we’d have the place to ourselves?


Photographers Nine Horse Fresco Hill Scenic Spot Landscape Guilin Xingping Laozhai Mountains Guanxi China Li River Sunrise iphone mist dawn paul reiffer photographer

It seems the Guilin mountains are a magnet for photographers, year round. We were there before the sunrise, but these were people who had been there before sunset! Trying to find a space on this three-tier platform was beyond impossible, until one very kind man offered to squash his tripod a little smaller to make some room for me. It was still before sunrise, giving me time to get set up, and that one guy made a failed trip into a success with that single action – For that, I’ll always be grateful.

guilin xingping before dawn frosty mist fog china guangxi south mountains li river blue layers paul reiffer photographer landscape

Before dawn, the colours across the river are all washed out in blue. Off in the distance you could see layer after layer of huge mountain formations as they stand tall next to one another. The mist adding to the atmosphere, but also adding to the tension around as every photographer started to fear the worst: After all that effort, maybe the sun wouldn’t actually make an appearance.

portal guilin xingping mountains Laozhai river li sunrise clouds storm rock formations paul reiffer professional landscape photographer china guangxi

While it didn’t ever manage to make a full clearing, the shot I managed to get was good enough for me: “Portal”.

It was actually taken around 25-30 minutes after the official sunrise and a few photographers had already packed up and gone home disappointed. Given the fact we’d flown here, driven through the night, cancelled our hotel and climbed up the side of the mountain for (effectively) only this shot, I figured we may as well hang around – and I’m glad we did.

The colours of the valley change completely during the day – from cool blue, to brown misty air (I didn’t ask!) to warm oranges and reds in the evening as the sun breaks through on its way to the horizon – the whole time changing the look of the mountains. You need a neutral density grad filter to balance the brightness of the sky with the relative darkness down below, but wow, what a view to take in.

So with the morning shots done, it was time to hit the road – oh, and a little stop-off at a Chinese service station:

Chinese service station communal squat toilet channel

Lovely. Yes, that’s a huge channel running down the entire length of the (unisex) public squat-toilets. And if you’re at the end of the line, you guessed it, what a view you get beneath. Despite being assured that these were actually “good ones”, as (cough) “they have doors”, I decided to pass on this particular stop and wait until we got to our hotel. After all, it was a 3-star property in a scenic town.

hotel xingping guanxi china 3 star photographers river li guilin 3 star toilet shower tv iphoneBAD decision. If anyone thinks that travelling to take photos is glamorous, allow me to describe the three pictures above. 1) Our shared squat-toilet with shower facilities above it (ensuring that of course your feet could accidentally fall in as you washed). 2) Our TV from 1982, complete with the last guest’s bodily fluids splattered all over the screen. and 3) curtains which do nothing at night to block out the streetlight affixed to the side of the hotel. Great. Well (believe it or not), I’ve stayed in worse – at least there wasn’t blood on the sheets in this one – so we ventured into town.

Xingping is/was actually a small little fishing village – quaint, with transportation based around bamboo rafts and using traditional farming as a primary source of income. The problem is, that all changed when people realised the beauty of the scenery down here. Even the government loved it so much that they put a painting of the mountains on the 20 Yuan bank note.

So, what happens as a result? The place is over-run with tourists, plastic replica boats replace the traditional bamboo rafts, fishermen throw their nets over the water for RMB50 a go in front of groups of photographers (so when you see those “traditional” photos of the fisherman in a natural setting – remember, it’s not!) and hundreds of tour guides swarm around the place with annoying speakers piercing the quiet air for hours on end. We’d had enough after 10 minutes at the “scenic spot” and opted to explore the old town instead while looking for somewhere to eat.

xingping river li guilin guanxi restaurant town dog cat meat rabbit head donkey food chinese

Allow me to translate the above: That’s a menu for a restaurant that sells cat, dog, rabbit head and donkey meat – they’ll even put it on a pizza-type-thing if you want. Oh, how I missed the Shangri-La. Still, we were here for only two more shots: Sunset from the other bank of the river, and one more sunrise.

sunset guilin xingping mountains laozhai li river rocks formations paul reiffer photographer climb iphone

Back out to the countryside we headed – this time to trek through a damp forest on the way up to another vantage point. Thinking the morning hike was tough going, I was about to be taught a lesson: Daytime humidity (even when the sun is partially blocked by mist) is a killer. Yes, that’s my t-shirt in the picture above and it’s not rain that it’s covered in. :-( However, the view from up there was equally incredible and ST (seen taking a shot, above) and I managed to get a few shots before the sun completely disappeared behind the clouds:

sunset guilin xingping mountains Laozhai river li clouds storm rock formations paul reiffer professional landscape photographer china guangxi

In some ways, the persistence of the mist and cloud was disappointing – but as we were rapidly discovering, it’s a daily occurrence in Guilin; it’s very rare that you get a completely clear day. In fact, looking back at some of the images I took, many of them almost “need” the mist to portray the feeling of this region anyway.

Packed up for the night – the next day was going to be another 3:00am start, so back to our hotel room with the wooden beds and a useless curtain to sit up through the night before the car was ready again. I had a feeling we’d been too lucky with the weather already, but got a bit of a boost when the rain that had been going on all night started to clear on our way back up to the mountain. When we got there however, despite being clear enough to see the river below, something was wrong: a distinct lack of photographers.

xingping guilin mountains sunrise fog mist weather cloud no sun iphone early morning

I wonder if they use a different weather forecast (one that doesn’t lie!) to the one we had with us. Or whether the locals “just know”. Either way, they were right, we were wrong. Along with 4 other photographers up there, we each had plenty of space today – and even places to stay out of the rain that began as the sun finally rose. In fact, not one of us even bothered to put our cameras on the tripods we set up it was that certain we’d be seeing nothing. Spending a little time talking (through ST) with some of the other guys, it seems we’d been very lucky the day before – one of the photographers was there on their 4th week-long visit to try and capture the mountains with a break in the sky, each time returning home with nothing. :-(

Was it worth the visit? For my favourite shot of the trip – I’d say yes. “Portal” really is a cool picture when it’s printed big. So then I guess it just comes down to how you view good fortune when determining success. I’d stayed in a horrible hotel. I had been hiking up mountain sides in the middle of the night in 90% humidity in rain. I’d very nearly eaten a close relation to my family pet. All for just 2 or 3 shots that were “usable”.

But I’d still managed to leave Guilin with 2 or 3 more shots than others had managed. It seems I did better than most. ;-)

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Screaming from the rooftops – Shanghai at night

Polapan filter film Shanghai Elevated Freeways night cityscape light trails tomorrow square nine dragons intersection puxi from above paul reiffer professional landscape photographer china

Shanghai really is a city that needs to be seen from above to be appreciated. The problem is that getting up there in the more traditional way (in a helicopter) simply isn’t possible – so there is a growing movement of photographers who (ahem) “access” rooftops with key vantage points across the city. It’s not a risk-free process by any means, but when you get up there and can look down at the pace of things in the world down below, it’s one of the most peaceful situations I find myself in these days.

From this building, you can actually see the rooftop I was on for “Shanghai Calling” – an image I captured not long after moving to Shanghai at the Nine Dragons interchange. It’s also a good reminder, looking down on that building, that we’re 60 floors up on the roof with quite a bit of wind(!)

So what about the other views? Well, here’s a bit of a tour…

Shanghai Cityscape Nine Dragons Intersection Elevated Freeways Night City Paul Reiffer Professional Landscape Photographer

First we have that crazy intersection itself – the Nine Dragons Pillar interchange. This is where Shanghai’s elevated freeways meet in the heart of the city and at up to 18 stories high in certain sections. Not only does it look like, but it actually is, the central nervous system of the city’s road transportation network.

Looking more to the north, I could focus on Tomorrow Square and People’s Square Park with places like the Urban Planning Center still prominent in the scene. In the foreground, that elevated freeway as it heads from East to West and just above, residential compounds which have (so far) managed to keep the skyscraper-building-onslaught of developers at bay.

Tomorrow Square Shanghai Cityscape Night Lights Peoples Park Skyscrapers Paul Reiffer Photographer Landscape

Heading around to the other side of the rooftop, we got a fantastic view out to the East of the city and Pudong across the river. From here you can see the Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao tower, SWFC and the Shanghai Tower in the shadows as it begins to look down over all other buildings – now the tallest structure on the skyline.

Shanghai Pudong City Skyline Cityscape Skyscrapers Jin Mao Tower SWFC Nanjing Road Peoples Square Park Paul Reiffer Landscape Photographer

You’ll notice from above, I’ve been experimenting with a new look for a select number of my new city shots. The originals of these images were obviously captured as normal with my iQ280, in colour.

The difference? I’ve added a Polapan blue filter to this photo which emulates the effect that you used to be able to cature using Polaroid’s instant slide film in the early 80’s. It’s monochromatic, rather than pure black and white, but the feel it gives to a city shot at night is really special.

Heartbeat Network Shanghai Elevated Freeways night cityscape light trails tomorrow square nine dragons intersection puxi from above paul reiffer professional landscape photographer china display

The shots above (left – “network” and right – “heartbeat”) show just how amazing the transport architecture is from up here in colour, but there’s something more “technical” about looking at the architecture in only one hue that I want to experiment more with in future. Granted, I absolutely love the colour versions of all of these images, and my focus will always be on producing colour photographs – but every now and then it’s good to see how different a night scene can look when you take away all the distraction of neon coloured signs and lighting hues.

To test the theory out, I took a shot “crown jewels” that was captured at night from the SWFC looking down over the Jin Mao and Oriental Pearl Towers, and applied the same feeling to it. While everything is about personal taste, I love how it’s come out :-)

SWFC Pudong Lujiazui View Oriental Pearl Tower Shanghai Cityscape Bund Night Lights Skyscrapers City Paul Reiffer Photographer Landscape

So, as the emails every week asking for specific location advice keep telling me, I guess I need to cover off the “rooftop” aspect in this post.

First thing’s first: Taking pictures from rooftops is not safe. Wind, water, trip hazards, getting locked up there (yes!) and efficient security guards all play a part in making the whole experience of finding a spot particularly difficult.

Second: There are very few “official” ways of getting to the top of some of the highest buildings in a city and so most photographs are taken with “unofficial access”.  That access may be in the form of “not getting caught”, “making a deal with a security guard” or “knowing someone who can help”, but at no time will any insurance ever cover you or your equipment if you choose to go down that route.

Third: Given the nature of that access, you’ll very rarely find a photographer who will publish an exact location online – so don’t be offended when they don’t offer it up! It’s not about preventing others from getting there, it’s about protecting the location from being locked-down. As a perfect example, the location of my “Over The Rainbow” shot looking out over the Nanpu Bridge has since had high fences and double-locks installed all around the upper levels of the building because of the number of people who later tried to get access without permission. This is what photographers are trying to avoid at all times – losing a location.

access rooftop shanghai building high iphone photography paul reiffer cityscape

So if you do manage to work out where an image is shot from, the best thing is to find a way to get there yourself and don’t shout too much about the specifics. And remember, when you’re up there, you’re on someone’s building with a responsibility not to break or damage anything to both the building owners as well as the poor people below should anything go wrong. Don’t interfere with lights (however frustrating they can be!) – they’re there to warn aircraft that may be flying too low and exist for a reason – and don’t, whatever you do, plan on taking a massive group up there!

giottos tripod hanging over edge 60th floor shanghai rooftop phase one iq280 645df+paul reiffer photographer iphone night cityscape

The location for the shots in this post was perfect and quiet until somebody decided to bring their entire extended family (with 3 small kids!) to come and see the view (and to the kids: play with the machinery).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking a moral high ground on this one – but please, please, please people be sensible about the risks you take – for yourself and others.

One final thought: You’ve seen the results of the night shots – but we actually got up there for sunset. I still need to take a look at my memory card from earlier that evening before I choose the final shot, but let’s just say from my iPhone image below, it looked pretty spectacular from up there :-)

shanghai sunset iphone picture phase one giottos tripod camera panoramic behind the scenes high building rooftop paul reiffer photographer

Posted in Cityscape, Creative, Industry, iPhone, Landscape, Photo Shoots Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Huvafen Fushi’s 10th Birthday – Shooting the Team in the Maldives

Jetty Pier Water Front Welcome Team Thakaru Huvafen Fushi Maldives 10th Anniversary Staff Team Photos Shots Male Paul Reiffer Professional Commercial Photographer 2014

“Never work with children or animals”, they say.

Luckily, the discussion I had with Per Aquum about photographing a 10th birthday didn’t relate to either. Instead, we were shooting memories of the staff at their stunning Maldives resort – “Huvafen Fushi” ten years on from its original opening.

Jaleel Water Waiter Huvafen Fushi Maldives 10th Anniversary Staff Team Photos Shots Male Paul Reiffer Professional Commercial Photographer 2014

They have a lot to celebrate – 10 years ago when they opened, it was one of the most innovative resorts to be launched in the (now aspired to) Maldivian islands. Many of those concepts have been copied, but Huvafen Fushi still remains unique: In an traditionally high-turnover industry, I was photographing some of the original staff such as Jaleel, above, who have been there since before the doors even opened to the public.

Marc Gussing GM General Manager Warrior Water Half Portrait Huvafen Fushi Maldives 10th Anniversary Staff Team Photos Shots Male Paul Reiffer Professional Commercial Photographer 2014

Returning after a few years apart is also Marc Gussing – their new General Manager (above), who is overseeing the revamp of the island to make it even more special.

Now, thinking about hotel GMs, there are few that I know so willing to not only involve an entire team in a photographic memory of their resort 10 years on, but also to get directly involved themselves in a very public way. The problem with shooting in the island’s central infinity pool is, of course, that you attract a bit of an audience. Concentrating on keeping the water still, not breathing, not laughing and raising your head up onto the water line (while still maintaining a relaxed face) is no easy task – let alone when you’re performing for your guests who are watching all around! ;-)

So what else did we shoot? Well, pretty much every team on the island. Not all are shown here (there’s not enough room to put every one of the 40 shots up) but it’s safe to say they were all stars. From playing with pizza, to an army of angry chefs, to maintenance team wars to covering half the team in ice cold water – we did the lot.

Maintenance Team Chef Sous Jay Manager Salt Pool Water Tuna Fish Pizza Chef Huvafen Fushi Maldives 10th Anniversary Staff Team Photos Shots Male Paul Reiffer Professional Commercial Photographer 2014

Shoots like this really do make me happy. Remembering that not one of these guys has any modelling experience, to work with such a fantastic group of people who really wanted to get into it (and 10/10 to Yoosuf for managing to organise the guys so well!) was really an honour and we managed to produce something unique for every team.

Of course, shooting on a paradise island is another factor on the enjoyment level scale, but I can assure you that lugging my gear around all day plus lighting rigs, tripods, etc in 35 degrees and crazy humidity can be a challenge! That’s why it’s the people themselves that really do make “work” like this fun :-)

Transport Team Dhoni Boat Cruise Crew Huvafen Fushi Maldives 10th Anniversary Staff Team Photos Shots Male Paul Reiffer Professional Commercial Photographer 2014

What to do on a day when the weather isn’t so great? Storm clouds aren’t a good look for the Maldives – but weather, of course, happens – and we got some thrown into the mix on one of the days. I say “storm”, but in reality they tend to last an hour or two in the Maldives before clearing back to blue sky – so don’t worry! That said, we took the opportunity to take a shot of the transport team (which, in Huvafen Fushi, means boat crew) on top of one of the Dhoni cruise boats with a bit of atmosphere instead ;-)

Hamid Oceanpedia Water Wave Standing Crash Diver Huvafen Fushi Maldives 10th Anniversary Staff Team Photos Shots Male Paul Reiffer Professional Commercial Photographer 2014

Paul Reiffer Photographing Hamid Huvafen Fushi Water WavesAnother advantage of a weather system is that it brings waves – and Hamid, one of the divers and coral experts on the island, wanted a photograph with something different…

There is no editing “trick” to the photo above – he’s stood on a small retaining wall, with 2 large sand bags behind him. As the waves crashed in, the sand bags force them to the left and right and the wall then creates the massive splash on either side of him. Cool, eh? ;-)

I have to say, as the third time I’ve stepped foot on the island, managed by Per Aquum Resorts – each and every time I’ve been in awe at not just the way the team look after every single tiny thing you could imagine but also how genuinely beautiful Huvafen Fushi really is.

mami huvafen fushi maldives thakuru butler japanese woman infinity pool balancing yoga sunset private paul reiffer photographer commercial

It’s weird being somewhere so perfect but not “on vacation” (something I’m going to fix this summer!) but there’s no way in the world I could ever call a shoot like this “work”, it really was a pleasure capturing these guys as they celebrate the last 10 years and look forward to the next. :-)

Dream Beach Sunset Easel Art Huvafen Fushi Maldives 10th Anniversary Staff Team Photos Shots Male Paul Reiffer Professional Commercial Photographer 2014

Oh, and one final thing: Of course, there’s a golden rule in the Maldives – you should always try to end every day with a beautiful sunset ;-)

Posted in Advertising, Creative, Landscape, Life, Photo Shoots Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New award winners – Px3 Paris, FIAP and RPC

Last week a few more shots got a little bit more recognition around the world as two competitions came to a close: The RPC – part of the Fédération International de l’Art Photographique (FIAP) 2014 and Prix De La Photographie Paris (Px3 2014). While not as well-known as other competitions, every now and then I submit a few images to “see how they do” around the world.

So it’s always a nice surprise when I get notification that a selection of them have won awards :-)

Across the two competitions, these three images managed to collect a total of 5 awards and one Honourable Mention (which is never quite as good, but hey… ;-) )

First up, “Horseshoe Bend”, shot in Page, Arizona – collecting a Silver award from Px3 and the FIAP Ribbon from the RPC:

Horseshoe Bend Px3 Silver Winner Paul Reiffer Photographer Prix De La Photographie Paris 2014 1st impression FIAP Ribbon Honourable Mention

“Horseshoe Bend” – print available to buy now

Next, “Over The Rainbow” collects the RPC Silver award in association with the FIAP:
Over The Rainbow 1st Impression FIAP Winner Federation Internationale de l art photographique 2014 Paul Reiffer Photographer RPC Silver

“Over The Rainbow” – print available to buy now

And finally, “Head Above Water”, shot in Palm Springs, California – collecting the Bronze award in Portraiture as well as the Silver award in Advertising and a Winner’s Honourable Mention from Px3:

Head Above Water Px3 Bronze Silver Winner Paul Reiffer Photographer Prix De La Photographie Paris 2014

Overall, I’d say I’m pretty happy with that bunch – now it’s time to reflect on why they didn’t quite make gold and what could be improved.

Coming up soon are the results from more well-known competitions – National Geographic Traveller, The Royal Photographic Society’s Print Competition, Lucie Foundation International Photography Awards and the International Pano Awards – all delivering their results over the summer. Fingers crossed, and all that ;-)

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