The Cobb – Capturing Sunrise at Lyme Regis

Sometimes those unplanned shots are the best. Well, I say “unplanned”, but what I mean is I hadn’t intended to photograph Lyme Regis during this trip back home. Having spent the previous afternoon exploring the quaint town of Lyme Regis, however, meant the lure of the next morning’s sunrise was simply too great – and look at what I got:

Breakwater Lyme Regis Bay The Cobb Paul Reiffer Professional Landscape Photographer

As always, there’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster involved in shooting sunrises and sunsets overwater. You need cloud – not too much, but not too little; you need a clear shot of the sun, but not head-on; you need a calm enough wind to allow for a long exposure, but not so calm that the sea is flat and dull; and of course, when it comes to standing on sea defences – you need the weather to be kind enough to not cover you and your equipment in water!

Arriving at Lyme Regis before sunrise, I was met with a pretty disappointing view. Fishermen were getting ready to head out to sea, and the town was slowly coming to life, but the shot I was looking for looked at risk : cloud was forming, fast.

Photographing The Cobb Lyme Regis Bay Paul Reiffer Behind The Scenes Professional Photographer

What had started out as a (luckily) relatively clear sky, despite the forecast for rain all day, started turning against me. The sea was perfect – a few small crashes here and there, but otherwise calm enough to allow for a half-second or second-long exposure to capture the motion. Visibility was clear too – but as time ticked on, past the official sunrise, there was no point of light to be seen.

Sunrise Lyme Regis Bay The Cobb Paul Reiffer Photographer Behind The ScenesOf course, these stories only have two potential outcomes – and you can guess from the shot above how this one turns out ;-)

Last-minute (around 15 minutes after the sun should have appeared), the illusive rays started to appear between the clouds. Another few minutes, and there was a complete sun blasting through – but it was clear it would be short-lived. The view was stunning, however, and even the iPhone shot (to the right) managed to do it justice.

I was already set up with my Cokin filters at this point and knew that the slightly pink cast caused by the mix of the 154 and 121 (ND and ND Grad) combination would actually bring something to the image this time. I had a window of maybe 2-3 minutes to capture the shot I had been waiting for – but as always, there are challenges, and in this instance there were two:

First, finding the perfect wave combination (I wanted a crash against the sea wall) to go with the sun-flare on the horizon. Luckily, with waves coming in every 8-10 seconds, this wasn’t going to be too difficult.

Second, however, was a little more tricky: People like to take their morning strolls and dog walks along The Cobb!

Dodging between walkers, clouds and waves, I finally managed to capture 6 images that worked. Looking at the sea structure in combination with the sky, “breakwater” was my favourite, and is now available as a limited edition print.

As for Lyme Regis? Well, it’s a fantastic little town to visit with loads of character and fantastic seafood. So much so, I think it’s going to have to be the destination for dinner tonight as well ;-)


Posted in Creative, Equipment, Landscape Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

W Singapore Sentosa Cove – #UpClose2WTalents

Normally when I photograph “talent”, it’s part of a modelling shoot or specific commercial imagery. To the industry, the term “talent” has certain preconceptions attached to it, but is a generally accepted term for the star of the show. So why would a hotel group insist on employing “talents” instead of staff? At the W Hotel Singapore – Sentosa Cove, it’s blindingly obvious : These guys really are the star of the show each and every day!

Stephane General Manager Welcome Entrance Fountain Water W Hotels Singapore Sentosa Cove Up Close To Talents Photoshoot 2014 Starwood Group

In some ways, it’s crazy to think that these guys don’t just go through an interview process to be lucky enough to work at the W, they go through auditions; but when you see them in action, you understand why. Even having only spent a few days with them while capturing their personalities, it’s clear that W really do employ a group of special people, hand-picked for their character as much as their experience to bring something different to every customer’s stay at the hotel. For the past month, following on from the shoots we did in W Koh Samui and W Retreat Maldives, W Hotels have been featuring some of their Singapore talents as part of their #UpClose2WTalents campaign across social media – and it’s been great to see the results :-)

Aurore, W’s Digital Marketing Manager wanted to highlight some of the real “unsung heroes” in the company, and give them a brief spell in the spotlight as we talked about each of those we photographed online. With that in mind, we captured the whole spectrum of the team over the 4 days. From Stephane, the General Manager (who got so into it he was actually teaching some of the welcome team how to throw ice-cold water more effectively at him!), to the Spa girls with their crazy sound-booth hairdryers, to the restaurant guys with their frantic tea-parties and huge steaks; this was a manic shoot but a heck of a lot of fun!

Behind The Scenes W Hotels Singapore Sentosa Cove Up Close To Talents Photoshoot 2014 Starwood Group

So, what does a “W Talent Shoot” involve? Briefly, think…

  • Blasting the General Manager with iced water in their welcome fountain
  • Wrapping one of the Welcome team in bondage tape in an alien chair
  • Restaurant guys trashing the signature “Afternoon Tea”
  • Room stylists trying out the huge “Extreme Wow” bathtub
  • DJ Booth take-overs by the Welcome team
  • Zen-ing out in the signature grass-lights
  • Top Gear inspired attitude shots of the W Wheels
  • A meat-based workout for Andrew, their awesome chef in Skirt
  • Fitness shots with the team around Wet, W Singapore’s pool
  • Featuring some of the team against the backdrop of the hotel’s exclusive artwork

In fact, one of the girls – Hanis, managed to pull off a pose that really is the work of a true model. Stood amongst the multitude of textures and backdrops you find in W’s signature restaurant – Skirt – we got her into a genuinely unique position that could make the cut for many fashion adverts:

Hanis Skirt Light Restaurant W Hotels Singapore Sentosa Cove Up Close To Talents Photoshoot 2014 Starwood Group

In general, these guys really did pull out all the stops for this – and we captured some great shots as a result. It’s always a lot of fun working with such a fantastic team and they each really did deserve their moment of fame. Take a look below for a wider selection of some of the images, and if you want to check if they match their personalities, well, I guess you’ll just have to book a room and stay there ;-)

Hanis - Skirt RestaurantArisan - WheelsJames - The Kitchen TableSiva - WetAbby - WooBarAndrew - Skirt RestaurantStephane - WelcomeSherwin - Living RoomIvy - The BonBonHan - Grass LightsShiela - Living RoomAndrew - Skirt RestaurantAway:Spa GirlsBone - FitGigi - Extreme Wow SuiteDominic - The ResidencesGigi - Extreme Wow SuiteStephane - Party's OverGene - Living RoomStephane - Extreme Wow Suite

Posted in Advertising, Creative, Magazines, Model, Photo Shoots Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New website launched – now with fancy responsive bits!

I remember writing this blog post in 2010 as if it were only yesterday. It was about the relaunch of my website after upgrading from an Adobe Flash based system to a more device-friendly one that met a lot more standards on the Internet.

Well, 4 years fly by and since then a lot has changed. HTML5 is now prolific, as are the demands of 3G/4G connections and devices instead of desktop, broadband, viewers. More importantly, however, is the wide-scale adoption of high density displays (or, as Apple have coined, “Retina” screens) in phones, tablets, iPads and now even 5k desktop displays.

So, it’s with pleasure that the “under maintenance” page has now been removed to reveal the brand new :-)

new 2014 website homepage

What’s inside? Well, a lot of the content remains (blog posts, for example), but aside from that pretty much everything has been rebuilt from the ground up. (Yes, that was a lot of work!)

We now have a browsing experience that scales, from tiny non-retina phone displays all the way up to the latest iMac with its monster resolution. The styling is now more modern, clean, and clear. All of our site imagery has been rebuilt with higher quality images (well, you’re here to look at photographs, right?!) and they’ve gone from 723 pixels wide to 1680 pixels wide (and actually up to 3,360 pixels wide on a hi-density display!). “Buy prints” has been re-built with a new, flatter, shopping cart system (as in the screen above) that sits on the menu bar and the portfolios section now shows images that will fill the screen of whatever device you choose to use.

buy prints portfolio blog new website

All that’s great (and I’m very proud of the new site), but the key driver for the upgrade was to make the site “responsive”. So, that’s exactly what’s been done. As the site scales, from big to small desktops, to tablets, to phones, to any device actually – the content now changes and adapts to the appropriate size and layout. No more zooming, scrolling, hunting for content around the desktop page on a tiny phone screen – it’s all been made a lot more fancy and clever!

new 2014 website responsive mobile devices

There’s still a lot more to do behind the scenes, but hopefully the fresh new look is something that you guys will like. It’s been quite a long time in the making (and the geek in me is upset that the site had to go offline for a while to do the “switchover”) but hey, it’s done now.

The old site lasted me for 4 years, through thick and thin. Here’s to the next 4 with even more images and stuff to see! :-)

Posted in Industry, iPhone, Technical, Website Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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 :-)

Posted in Creative, Equipment, Industry, Landscape, Photo Shoots, Technical Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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…!


Posted in Cityscape, Creative, Equipment, Industry, Landscape, Technical, Website Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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 :-)

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

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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