I am excited to have been awarded my first Gold at the Epson International Pano Awards this year, and was the highest rated Film Capture in it’s category.

The shot is called “24 Hour Harbour” and is a long exposure shot of Singapores’ Tanjong Pagar Port at night. You can purchase a Print from the Asia Cityscapes Gallery here.

24-hour-harbour-singapore-2

I also won 2 silvers for “Streets of Mongkok” and “Hopes and Dreams” giving me 2 images in the top 50 for the Built Environment category.

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April is a great time to go to Palawan, the temperature is perfect for spending all day on boat and exploring the beautiful coast. It is certainly cooler coming from Singapore.

I flew into Manila airport, then had a 5 hour connection for my 45 minute flight to Francisco B Reyes Airport on the small northern island of Busuanga. I was going to spend 2 days here so I can check out Coron Island before jumping on a boat south to El Nido on Palawan Island for 4 days.

After landing, I took a 45 minute minibus ride to Coron Town where I had booked a hotel, the sun was setting so I quickly headed out and for a walk around the area looking to find the ocean and see the view, but I never got to see it because something much more interesting got in my way.

Travel blog diary

Villages on stilts sat all along the shore, the first time I had seen anything like it. I walked along the precarious walkways, some only 1 plank thick, and soon gathered a following of kids who loved to get in front of my camera. It wasn’t long before it got too dark to see where I was going so I headed back out to look for somewhere to eat dinner, I plan to come back here tomorrow after a day on a boat.

Usually I like to hire a private boat so I can go and take photos at my own pace, but since Coron is fairly small I decided to take a group tour to see all the places and just enjoy the area like a regular tourist. Then I could go alone the next day and only visit the best places to shoot. It was cheap at 650php for the day including lunch, I spent a lot of time snorkeling amongst the coral and got to use the underwater pack for my camera that I bought especially for this trip. I was hoping to take some cool underwater panos, but being my first time shooting underwater, none turned out so well.

boat moored on beautiful island in clear ocean water

The last place for the day was the beautiful and calming Kayangan Lake, in the bottom left picture. I swam in all the way across to get away from the other tourists, but with all the swimming I had done in the day, my back was burning that night from way too much sun.

Philippines travel blog

At the end of the tour I headed straight for the stilt villages to walk around, surrounded by kids excited to be in my photos again. I found the perfect panoramic spot and waited watching the children to see what they would do as I shot them running around. It felt nice to see so many welcoming people as I explored their homes. It is funny to see people live like this yet they still have their big screen TVs, smartphones and nice clothes.

Palawan philippines

I hadn’t booked a private boat for the next day, I was thinking I could just rock up at the port and grab one, but this being a busy Easter weekend all the official tour boats were out. So I grabbed a trike and headed for the smaller villages nearby to find a boat to take me.

Palawan philipines

I found two keen young lads and paid them 1500 php for the day, it was a tiny boat which at I wasn’t sure about at first but it turned out to be a great blessing, if I had a large tour boat and older men they wouldn’t have been so willing to maneuver the boat to get the pictures I wanted. They were so eager and I got a great shot of the formations.

Whilst there were many other nice places, none came close to the beauty of this location, the name of which I have completely forgotten.

Crystal clear coastal water

Palawan philippines

Back in Coron town I explored more of the stilt houses before heading to dinner where I watched on as what seemed like the whole town walk by holding candles in celebration of Easter. It was a wonderful sight to see them all coming together like this.

Coron town blog

My last dinner here I went to Sinugba sa Balay for the second time and ordered Tuna Tataki. I was weary of ordering something almost raw fish in the Philippines but it turned out to be the best Tuna I have ever had, even better than Japan! It was freshly caught today so was nice, warm and creamy rather than the cold I am used to. Incredible. If I had discovered it the first night I would have eaten it every meal.

palawan philippines

My 4th day in Palawan was going to be taken up entirely on the ferry to El Nido. It takes 7-8 hours! We left at 8.30am and for the first 3 hours of calm water I lay on the side deck enjoying the view and relaxing whilst I listened to film scores, it was wonderful. Once we hit open water though I was soon getting splashed by the big waves, I had 2 options, sit inside the cramped boat smelling the engine fumes or go up stairs. I chose upstairs and enjoyed 4 hours of what felt like a theme park ride. I had read before that some of the boats can be very small, only holding 20 people, I was so glad this was a bigger boat with the waves we encountered. Even on the top I would get splashed occasionally. At one point we even ran over a smaller boat, pictured in the bottom right. The fisherman had to dive underwater to avoid being hurt. Crazy.

I arrived in El Nido at 4pm with plenty of time before sunset to walk around the town and find a good place for a shot. I wasn’t disappointed by the light that first night and captured a boy as he searched for shellfish at low tide.

Boy searches for shell fish on the coast

After 3 days of being on a boat I needed a rest so I spent my first whole day in El Nido walking up the beach and seeing the local life.

Palawan phiippines

It was lovey to walk amongst the rustic houses, eat lunch as the waves splash at my feet not having to rush anywhere.

Palawan philippines

I went to a few tour operators and found out they would charge me 6000php a day for a private boat here, so much more expensive than Coron, eventually after a lot of bargaining I found one that would give me a small boat again for 4500php for 2 days which I still thought was too much, but my best option. The area surrounding El Nido is split up into 4 separate tours that go around all the pretty beaches and coves, and because I didn’t want to spend the next 4 days on a boat my plan is to try visit as many as I could in 2 days. There will be certain places I don’t want to stay long at, and others I want to take my time and photograph, which I can’t do with a group tour.

El nido beach philippines

The first day I visited many beaches, shooting as I went, sadly though the ocean was too choppy to reach the further places, but after more research, I realised it would only be a waste anyway since those areas are part of the busiest tours and I don’t want people in my shots. So I was happy finding the quiet less popular beaches all to myself.

Deserted beach in palawan philippines

My route took me to Cadlao Island, Dilumacad Island, Miniloc Island where I kayaked around the lagoons, Shimizu Island and the last but best destination, Ipil Beach. It was so pristine yet desolate at the same time. I was the only person there the whole time, which amazed me for such a nice beach. My boat captain started to get impatient with me when it got to 5pm and I was still shooting. I had told him we would finish by 4.

Palawan philippines

For sunset I went back to the same spot along the beach in El Nido town, I hadn’t found a prettier place to shoot and wanted to capture it in the best light so decided I would come back here every night.

Palawan philippines

The next day I was back on the boat and went around a few of the same beaches, avoiding the crowds and enjoying the solidarity. I chose to back to Ipil beach again to capture it with the best light.

El nido philippines

Ipil beach

I loved Ipil Beach so much that on my last day I decided to kayak there and sleep under the stars, it was so nice and relaxing to be all alone, only the sound of waves to listen to.

A perfect final night in Palawan.

El nido tour

This month marks 3 years that I have lived in Singapore so it’s a good time to share all my shots from this small but jam packed Island. Living here gives me plenty of opportunities to capture the scenes in the best light by going back again and again until I feel I have nailed the shot.

The first shot I wanted to capture when I arrived was an impressive cityscape; something that shows the best of Singapore. I discovered this spot the on my very first walk after the long 14 hour flight from London. I have been back over 30 times all around Chirstmas since this is the time of year when the sun sets behind the scene. For the first 3 years the best I had got was the one below.

Singapore skyline

Whilst it’s pretty, it’s not the shot I have imagined so I kept trying and finally got the shot in January 2016 close to my 3rd anniversary in Singapore I was determined to nail it this year and foolishly with a 30 minute double exposure- something that has failed many times. All the effort paid off and I captured the beauty below.

Singapore skyline

With some locations, however, I am much more successful. This shot from the east marina at sunrise I only had to visit once, which I am thankful for since it means getting up incredibly early, I am definitely a sunset person. I used a 10 stop ND filter for a 4 minute exposure to get the rushing clouds in the sky. I was very lucky as the beautiful light you see shining on the buildings was only there for 6 minutes,the rain clouds moved in soon after.

Singapore skyline in black and white

To capture the sunset of the same scene I only went 3 times before getting this beautiful light with a 45 minute exposure using 16 stops of ND filters in front of my lens.

Singapore skyline at sunset

Singapore has a unique CBD that viewed form the right angle across the Singapore River is a wall of buildings with no sky in sight, one of very few of my shots that don’t rely on the right light to take it.

Abstract city architecture

The Gardens by the Bay only opened months before I arrived in Singapore. It’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, and the Supertree Grove is a must for any visitor during the evening light show. I was lucky to for this shot to turn out as so many people surrounded me I was worried the shot would be blurry.

Supertree grove gardens by the bay

The Shophouse is something unique to Singapore and Malaysia, a mix of Malay, Chinese and European architectural details that have thankfully not all been knocked down to build a new hi rise condo. Many can be found in Chinatown but have mostly been ruined with restaurant signs, but these on koon Seng Road keep their original charm. There are bins the ruin the look of the scene so I moved these out the way for the shot. I have since searched and searched for another set of shophouses to capture but none can beat.

Colorful shophouses on koon sent road in singapore

Something unique to Singapore is the F1, its the only race held at night and last year I grabbed walkabout tickets and spent hours shooting the cars as they rushed by. Out of the 300 shots I only had a handful sharp, it’s not easy shooting at ½ a second exposure with the speeds they drive, and you wouldn’t believe the how loud it is. I could only bare standing so close by using ear plugs.

SINGAPORE F1

Chinese New Year is a huge celebration here and I love going to shoot the events with all the lights and lanterns, there are so many great vantage points to be found with many accessible buildings, and car park rooftops.

CHINESE NEW YEAR SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE CHINATOWN CNY

I love the docks that surround Singapore, because of their location so close to the city there are so many great vantage points to shoot them. My favourite below was taken from the roof of a newly built condo, the Skysuites. Its a great spot to watch the sunset and shoot and I ended up going up on 7 different occasions for these 2 killer pictures. A total of 10 hours up there snapping away!

Singapore shipping docks

24 HOUR HARBOUR - SINGAPORE
Singapore harbour

Singapore docks

My friend Sandra has a great view of the City from Sentosa Island, and I found myself on her balcony a few times trying to capture this angle at its best, seeing the huge ships come into the port is an amazing sight with the skyscrapers behind.

singapore docks from sentosa

Singapore docks from sentosa at sunset

Living in Singapore during the SG50 celebrations was an incredible experience with all the shows to photograph, and I couldn’t miss getting the perfect shot of the fireworks, the most spectacular the city has ever put on, with my panoramic ratio perfect to showcase the whole display.

THE BLACK KNIGHTS

Singapore skyline with fireworks for the national day parade sg50

It’s been an incredible 3 years here travelling around Asia, but I think I may have neglected shooting Singapore too much since my collection of images is smaller than Hong Kong. On that note I think I will go out and shoot right now!

 

3 years ago when I first arrived in Singapore, I visited Manila and it really opened my eyes to see a 3rd world city. But the Philippines has so many beautiful places to explore and I have been wanting to come back ever since. The only thing I booked on this trip was my flights 10 days apart into Angeles and my first night’s hotel, everything after that I will just go with the flow. All I had was a list of places I wanted to visit. I wanted it to be a road trip, something I haven’t done for a long time.

I chose to fly into Angeles because it’s the closest international airport to Banaue rice terraces, but when I walked around the town I soon found out what everyone else is here for. It was like Soi Cowboy in Bangkok with young girls walking along side old fat white men. Lovely.

The next morning I went searching for a car hire. I jumped on a Jeepney to save time only to find google maps was completely wrong about the location, which turned out to be a regularly occurrence here. I did get a cool shot during the ride though.

Banaue Philippines

Car rental is expensive here at $50 a day compared to Indonesia where you can get a car, gas and driver for less than that. All the rental places I found were out of cars and I would have to wait until late afternoon to get one, I was eager to get get out of this town to prettier scenery. Luckily I found a local who would rent me his personal car for the 10 days – a 1 year old Toyota!

I filled up the tank then hit the toll way straight away heading north, my first destination being the rice terraces. As darkness fell I arrived in Baguio, a busy town where the traffic was terrible. I decided to stop here for the night since there were plenty of hotels around and I didn’t want to miss any scenery along the way.

I woke early the next day so I could make it to Banaue before sunset, I had a little walk around the area first to see the local life, exploring the communities into the hills around.

baguio

Baguio Philippines

It was a great drive through the mountains and villages all day, the roads constantly winding and the air getting cooler. I stopped to photograph anything that caught my eye, I was especially on the lookout for Jeepneys to shoot, something with a cool paint job with a beautiful mountain backdrop. Of course my expectations were too high.

philippines

dead-jeepney

Banaue Philippines

Trike Philippines

I stopped in the town of Bontoc for lunch and walked around, since I had been sat in the car for 6 hours I needed to stretch my legs. I found this cool trike stand near the local market that was a perfect street scene to shoot in black and white. The locals couldn’t understand why I was shooting them for 30 minutes as I dodged traffic stood in the road.

Trikes Philippines taxi

I arrived in Banaue at 5pm getting a glimpse of the incredible terraces before the light faded and I headed to find a place to stay for the night, I bought a sim card with plenty of data so I could search for a place easily rather than having to book in advance for a real road trip experience that allowed me to go wherever caught my fancy. I found Uyami’s Green View Lodge which was cheap and came with breakfast and the perfect spot right next to town.

Banaue Philippines

There are many rice terraces to visit in the area, the main being Banaue itself which I walked around for the whole first day scouting the area for the perfect shot. I never really found it and had no plan to come back to shoot. It was great to walk in the edges of the terraces with the cool mountain breeze blowing and seeing the people that live and work here go about their days though.

Bata rice terraces

The next day I headed to Batad Rice Terraces, an hour drive east along a newly paved road. If I had come a few weeks earlier it would have been another 30 minutes of hiking down steep hill to the villages, something fine on the way but would be killer after a day trekking up and down all the steep hills. Along the way there were various sites I stopped to look at, one of which I pulled to the side of the road near a man on a motorbike. He moved out the way a little which made me think I could move in a little more when disaster struck and I drove slightly off the road with the car resting on the axel. I was so gutted thinking that would be the end of the trip, who know what damage I had done, or if the car could get back fully onto the road. This was when I found out how nice Filipinos are, the motorcyclist shouted for his friends and 10 of them helped lift the car up whilst I reversed it back. I only wish I had a photo to show you but I was too busy, I was just so relieved and continued on my way after thanking them profusely.

A 20 minute walk downhill took me to the heart of Batad village where it sat amongst the terraces, with lots of small inns to stay in overnight I wasn’t sure if I would stay here or not tonight. I kept walking around the steep terraces wishing my camera gear wasn’t so heavy until I came to this incredible view looking down. It was a perfect time to visit and photograph which is always a concern planning a trip to shoot rice terraces, I had no idea what stage of growth they would be at so I was excited to see them filled with water reflecting the clouds above. I spent 2 hours shooting various compositions as I waited for the clouds to create a nice patterns of light on the landscape below.

Batad Rice terraces philippines

Banaue

I then continued hiking to Cambulo, 3 hours away, along the way I passed groups of tourists coming back asking why I didn’t have a guide to show me the way. But the trail was obvious and looked easy so I didn’t think I could get lost. How wrong I was! The trail split at various points and I soon found out I was on the wrong route. Even asking a worker didn’t help as their English wasn’t great. After wasting a lot of time, I decided to head back to my car and try again tomorrow as it was 4pm and I wouldn’t make it back before dark.

With my second attempt to Cambulo I knew exactly which way to go and arrived at 1pm hot and tired after step climbs and balancing on the narrow terrace walls. It was a cloudy day and the light didn’t look great so the scenes I found exploring the levels lacked any magic. I loved walking around the village however and seeing the locals, it was so peaceful, what a wonderful place it must be to live walking to school along the terraces each day, no mobile signal- a simple life amongst beautiful terraces.

Cambulo rice terraces philippines

At 4pm just as I was thinking of leaving a storm passed over with heavy rain for over an hour, I didn’t want to hike back and get drenched so I had no choice but to stay in the only inn for the night. The sky eventually cleared and the terraces lit up with the perfect light just before sunset. To think if it hadn’t been for the rain and trapped me here I would have missed it. How wrong I was to think the light wouldn’t be good here at this time because of the surrounding mountains.

banaue

I walked back to the inn so happy, relaxed and away from my usual busy life. The villagers were all sat outside their homes talking and laughing. It only cost $3 to stay for the night, and it was just as nice as some $50 hotels. I also ate the best meal on the trip here for only $1.50, Chicken Adobo and it changed my previous opinion of this dish!

Philippines rice terraces

As there was nothing to do here after dark I fell asleep at 8pm and woke before sunrise setting off back to Batad after a morning walk around the village.

I spent my last day around Banaue town, the light was good today so I shot the terraces at various angles, but they just didn’t compare to the colours and shapes of Batad and Cambulo.

banaue-town

Bane Rice terraces philippines

Banaue Rice Terraces

I made my way west through the mountains towards the coast in the afternoon, it was an incredible drive with the golden light hitting the landscape, possibly one of the best drives of my life! I hoped to make it to the coast by sunset but when darkness came, I still had 2 hours of driving left winding through the mountains. This was when I discovered how much I hated the tinted windscreens they use in the Philippines; it was so hard to see and I was so happy when I got out of the mountains into the lit streets.

philippines

The 2nd half of the trip was spent driving south down the coast through Alaminos, Iba and Subic Bay. The coast was disappointing however with very few photographic opportunities and the “resorts” I stayed in, even worse. They all looked like they had seen better days, but I did love that the owner of Isla Vista was also the local Doctor!

philippines-rectangles-3

 

serenity-lone-boat-in-the-ocean

Phhilippines

I had planned to visit Mount Pinatubo, a volcano that had a lake inside, but after 3 hours of driving just to get there I found out it was closed. I was amazed a natural wonder would ever be closed especially since it isn’t rainy season. I drove all the way back towards the City of Balanga where I enjoyed the quiet roads, whilst there was little to photograph the drive was beautiful amongst the forests and small villages. I would take detours onto small bumpy roads trying to find the coast that would lead nowhere.

On my last morning before heading for the airport I discovered this lovely rusting truck on the side of the road and I spent an hour shooting it from various angles to the delight of the owner’s children. They had no idea why I would want to photograph such an old piece of junk.

truck

Whilst the 2nd half of my road trip couldn’t compare to the first I still enjoyed the drives and seeing the local life, there was always something to see along the quiet roads. Nothing beats driving down a road until the pavement ends and you can’t go any further. You can’t beat a road trip with no plan.

Worlds largest cave

When my friend Sandra invited me to go on an expedition through one of the world’s largest caves in Vietnam, I jumped at the chance! Not even put off by the US $3000 price tag I couldn’t wait to see a cave of this magnitude with the largest chamber stretching 3 miles long and able to fit a jumbo jet! Only 500 people are allowed into Son Doong each year in groups of 10.

The expedition involves 50km of trekking over 5 days with 4 nights camping inside the caves with Oxalis. Thankfully there was a team of 20 porters to carry most of the gear and food leaving me to carry all the camera gear I needed. Even though it’s dark in there I was going to bring my panoramic film camera and widest lens to see what I can capture with some long exposures. I have never shot in caves before so it will be a new experience, hopefully I won’t mess it up!

The team taking us on this tour consisted of 2 caving specialists, Watto and Sweeney from England along with 25 porters.

Son Doong worlds largest cave

Day 1


The mini-bus dropped us at the top of the trailhead at 9am, where we started with a steep descent into the valley below on a rainy July day. Normally I would be very unhappy with this weather but as we were going into a cave and trekking all day I was glad for the cooler temperature. Bad weather wasn’t going to ruin any photos on this trip.

It was a muddy hike through jungle, rivers and Ban Doong village with a population of only 40 people.

I had bought some special river boots just for this trip that let all the water drain out and had the best grip. Since there was no way to keep the water out of Goretex boots. they would be useless here.

phong nha national park

We arrived at the entrance to Hang En cave at 3pm, we actually get to see 2 caves as this is the only way to get to Son Doong. We donned our hard hats and started a steep climb until we got to see our camp site for the night below.

phong nha national park

The sheer scale of the cave was incredible, and this wasn’t even the largest we would see on this adventure. It was so quiet here with only the sound of the tweeting swifts above and echos of voices bouncing around the cave walls.

First I headed down to the campsite to survey the whole area before deciding where to shoot, and then headed back up with Sandra and a guide to shoot the scene before the light faded for the day, I had them stand on a rock to add scale to the picture.

phong nha national park vietnam

We headed back down to the campsite where we bathed in the river before eating dinner, a big selection of different dishes as night fell and darkness surrounded us.

The caving experts were very helpful with photography and setup for a great long exposure night scene which we spent an hour shooting as I directed them to light up different sections of the cave as I shot my panoramic composition. I hope getting them to shine time and time again didn’t annoy them until we got it just right.

phong nha national park vietnam

Phong Nha National Park vietnam

Day 2


We rose early the next day, ate a bowl of Pho for breakfast and went on our way.

Already I had fallen to the back as I took my time looking for shots, but this had its advantages such as the immense scene below made only by the line of the group walking way ahead of me, something I couldn’t have gotten if I was at the front.

After 30 minutes of walking through rivers and climbing over huge rocks we made it to the exit of Hang En and stopped to take pictures of the huge opening. Even with the widest lens it was tough to get it all in for a great composition, and only having a person stand in shot would you have any sense of the vast scale.

vietnam-rectangles-cave-4

phong nha national park vietnam

phong nha national park vietnam

phong nha national park vietnam

Out in the open again it was dry but cloudy as we meandered through rivers, forests and steep, muddy inclines until we eventually reached the opening of the great Son Doong cave. You realized how it was so hard to find as the cave went deep underground.

phong nha national park vietnam

This was when the real caving began. We started by descending 80m on ropes deep into the cave, at the bottom it was a perfect opportunity to shoot a pano as the team descended towards me with the incredible formation of the cave up to the opening. It was a slow process so I had plenty of time to experiment and get the best shot. I brought my film camera with me but this became dead weight as the exposure times were just too long to use for most shots, especially when it’s important to have someone in shot to show the scale of the scene. Whilst I did attempt some, most were too dark and not good enough to show, with light trails from the group walking through shot. I knew this would happen but hoped it would be useful in the daylight sections.

phong nha national park vietnam

We had so much time that whilst waiting Sandra took some great portrait shots of me. I tried to replicate the same for her but for some reason my versions were rubbish!

vietnam-rectangles-cave-7

Son Doong required a lot more bouldering and climbing than Hang En which I loved. It took me back to when I was a kid in Brimham Rocks climbing the big boulders in England. At all times I had my camera around my neck looking out for shots to take, sweat and water dripping onto it, it certainly was a good test for the Sony A7 which never skipped a beat.

phong nha national park vietnam

We had to cross the river twice to continue through which came up to my waist, it’s times like this I am glad I am tall as I watched the rest waddled with water coming up to their chests. It was nice to cool off in the water as the climbing has been more intense today.

The best thing about the caves is they stay at a constant temperature of around 25 degrees, much cooler than outside so it’s bearable.

Eventually we came to the best view yet, looking down 1km of the cave towards a rock known as the Hand of Dog and the first opening, the perfect place to show the vast scale of Son Doong cave. Large enough to house a whole New York City block!

I had to be quick to shoot as no one wanted to wait around.

phong nha national park vietnam

Scrambling over rocks through the 1st large passage as we passed big drops and the Hand of Dog, we finally reached our 2nd campsite. All the campsites were chosen near openings so we had light as once darkness engulfed the caves it made it a lot harder to see what you were doing. I guess that was why dinner was always ready and served before sunset which was no fun for a photographer who wanted to keep shooting as the light fades.

There was no place to wash this time so I used wipes to clean off the dirt of the day.

The toilets were the most interesting thing about this expedition, they were just buckets underneath a seat and we used rice bran to cover our waste. They did however have some of the best views for toilets looking out the epic openings. One had a rock that hilariously had a mouse that had died on it, it was sat right in front of me as I did my business and was lying with it’s feet up as though it had been scuffling past and died from the stench.

phong nha national park vietnam

The porters had the toughest job, carrying 20-30kg on their backs, amazing when many in the group struggled the tough climbs carrying nothing, and all in flimsy $1 sandals. They packed up the campsites after we left and arrived ahead of us to set up the next camp rushing past us as we made our way. It was in the evenings they could relax which they did by the campfire, reading or with colouring books.

Day 3


The chef was always the first up and busy getting our breakfast ready, in his makeshift kitchen, with the barest of utensils and cutting surfaces.

phong nha national park vietnam

After breakfast we had to scramble over and through many boulders before we got to a steep climb to reach the first jungle in the cave, something the porters did with ease in their cheap sandals and we struggled with in our fancy grippy boots. It was very slow using the ropes as we had to go up in twos because of loose rocks that would fall below. We waited at the bottom for a long time taking photos looking up into the opening.

phong nha national park vietnam

phong nha national park vietnam

We eventually made it to the top to explore the first opening we got a glimpse of yesterday, it was raining again which was nice and refreshing after the intensive climb and no bath for over a day. We walked down to the most famous spot called The Green Gours where we could take a photo under the small waterfall that fell from the cliffs above. It was an incredible place to stand surrounded by the huge walls. Even the 20 shot pano below doesn’t get it all in.

Green Gours

Continuing back into the cave I discovered the most impressive spot yet. It was so vast I had to use a 16mm lens in portrait to shoot it all. I event tried a film shot with my panoramic camera which required a 30 minute exposure but that failed completely.

Phong Nha National Park vietnam

We continued past huge formations and the most impressive 2nd opening masked by an incredible mist until we reached the jungle of Son Doong cave which took 45 minute walk.

Phong Nha National Park vietnam

That wasn’t the end of the day though, we were close to the very end of Son Doong so we continued on into the darkness past huge stalagmites, I posed the group for the shot below having them shine their torches in just the right spots to light up the caves.

Because I spent so much time shooting, the rest of the team went way ahead allowing me to feel like I had the whole caves to myself. There were times when I sat down and turned off my light in pitch darkness, it’s amazing how vast the cave was but in complete darkness the walls close in and you start to feel very claustrophobic.Worlds largest cave

The end of Song Doong is a place called the Great Wall of Vietnam, where to reach the final opening you have to scale it which wasn’t part of this expedition is it requires some skill to do it. Rather than walk the 300m muddy path to reach the wall I opted to stay and shoot down the passage as the team made their way. Whilst not a panoramic its still a unique shot of the cave with a small amount of daylight peeping though too. I did shoot the same scene on film but it was too dark and nothing came out. During the 8 minute exposure we shone out torches all around the cave at various angles to bring out the details of the walls.

We headed back to the campsite for dinner and spent the night trying to light paint the words Son Doong for a photo. We passed the light between many team members and it took forever to get it right which made me wish the cave had a shorter name!

Phong Nha National Park vietnam

Day 4


Today was our last day in the caves and the goal was to make it all the way back to our first campsite in Hang En in only 8 hours, something that took 2 days with all the photo stops we made. Thankfully I had shot what I wanted to already so not having time to photograph more wasn’t a huge problem.

Climbing though Son Doong Cave

As we reached the river crossing it was now too high and strong to cross due to the rain the last few days. But thankfully the porters were well prepared, a few weeks ago it was so high they were stranded and had to chop down trees in the cave jungle to make bridges to cross. It didn’t take long for them to set up the make shift crossing and we were all on our way. It was amazing to watch as the team put everything in place and made sure it was safe.

Phong Nha National Park vietnam

It was wonderful to be back in Hang En and bathe in the river again after 3 days of trekking with nothing more than baby wipes to clean our muddy, sandy bodies.

I did wonder if I will ever get the sweaty stench out from my socks.

Day 5


We woke early at 6.30am so we could make it back out of the valley before lunch, and it was the steep climb out that became a killer for me, having been trekking for 4 days with 11kg on my back my leg were officially tired and it felt slow going getting back up to the mini bus to take us into town by 12pm.

It has been an amazing experience, I would never normally do a tour because I like to explore on my own and take my time but this is something I just can’t do alone.

I am happy to have expanded my portfolio with something new, it’s just a shame I wasn’t able to get any film shots of the caves, still after 12 years of photography I am learning!

 

 

 

 

 

In the 2 years I have lived in Singapore, Hong Kong is my favourite place to visit, so much so that this is my 5th time here. I always try to find somewhere new to shoot as well as re-visiting old favourites, all with my good friend Singe who lives here over the course of a week.

I started with the best view in the city from the Peak; I went 3 mornings in a row and on the second was treated to the amazing sunrise you see below.

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sun rays shining over hong kong city

I was on a mission to shoot more neon this time, especially as I have heard the government are removing it. I dream of shooting 20 years ago when the streets were filled with it. I explored all the streets of Mong Kok, to find that I had already shot some of the best neon in my first trips, the street scenes I found were not as cool and very few fitted perfectly into the 3:1 ratio.

I love this scene but only wish it had more than one sign in it to fill the left of the frame.

neon-sign

During my 2 days of walking, I found the incredible scene below, I only intended to shoot the street with no cars or people in the way. As I set up ,trucks came and parked in my shot so it was a long waiting game for a clear scene, then when it was clean there was a constant stream of people walking across which I didn’t want due to my ½ second exposure as the blur would not look nice, so I waited some more. It was during all the waiting that the scene spoke to me, the perfect moment to capture flashed before my eyes as a mini bus drove across the scene and all the pedestrians crossing paused for a brief moment before crossing. Of course my hand was just too slow to react in time to capture it but I knew that was the moment I wanted on film.

So I waited even longer, pressing the shutter as mini busses drove by, all not quite what I was looking for but maybe that moment I saw wouldn’t happen again before it get’s dark so I shot what I could. After almost 3 hours having been stood here, a taxi stopped to drop off a passenger, and then 2 ladies started to cross at the perfect time as another taxi whizzed by and I pressed the shutter for the perfect moment you see below. I was so happy after waiting for so long wondering if I was stupid and should have packed up hours ago. I am always wondering what delights could be around the next corner.

mongkok-street

I loved exploring the hills around the city for new angles to capture and on this trip I planned to visit all 3 at sunset- Braemar Hill, the Devils Peak and a relatively unknown spot over near Tsing Yi that over looked the docks. All three were incredible in their own way.

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devils-peak-hk

tsing-yi-night

Each time my visit to Hong Kong comes to an end there is always something else I want to come back for. I have been trying to shoot panoramic on the trams half in and half out showing the life and the city all in one shot, but film exposure times have prevented me getting anything usable to date. I will be back soon to try again for sure.

 

THE RUINS OF TA PROHM - CAMBODIA

Siem Reap is the gateway to the amazing ruins of the Angkor region, a place I have been looking forward to exploring since I arrived in Asia 2 years ago.

I booked 3 days which would give me plenty of time to explore every temple and get the shots I wanted since they were all in a small area and easy travel between.

I landed on a Saturday afternoon where a Tuk Tuk driver sent by the hotel was waiting to collect me, I headed straight out to the temples wanting to make the most of my time here. My first was location was Angkor Thom.

siem reap rectangles1

Angkor Thom has lots of intricate details which wouldn’t be seen if captured in wide angle, but it’s great to capture up close. I spent 2 hours just wandering around as the sun set, and as most tourists would be at the sunset point now. As a result, I had the whole temple to myself before it got to dark.

BAYON ANGKOR THOM

I wanted to avoid the crowds as much as possible on this trip to have people-free shots, and my research told most follow a standard route. This route starts at Angkor Wat for sunrise, then onto Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, before heading to the sunset point of Bakheng, so I avoided those places at those busy times. I was looking for almost untouched temples as many had been restored, but Ta Prohm was one that was still close to the broken state it was found in, so I headed there first at the crack of sunrise to avoid the crowds.

SIEM REAP TA PROHM ENTRANCE

It wasn’t long though before people trickled in and I found myself waiting for clear scenes in some of the wide open spots, but others I had all to myself. I loved Ta Prohm so much that I decided to come back each morning at sunrise to make the most of all the impressive sections.

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I found my favourite shot from Ta Prohm on the last morning, pictured below, and the hour I spent there I only saw 2 people walk by, it was so peaceful and I took my time to find the perfect angle and exposure to capture the amazing ruins. The light was perfect as it filtered through the trees.

THE RUINS OF TA PROHM - CAMBODIA

siem reap rectangles2

There were so many nooks and crannies to discover with every turn, I almost felt lost inside as I spent at least 10 hours shooting this temple alone over the 3 days.

THE RUINS OF TA PROHM - SIEM REAP

TA PROHM WALKWAY 2 NEG

I loved travelling between the temples on the Tuk Tuk, watching the local life as I flew by shooting with my circular lens. I set my shutter to 1/1000 and shot everything that caught my eyes as I rushed by.

siem reap cicles3 siem reap cicles1 siem reap cicles2

The busiest temple, Angkor Wat was a little uninspiring for me compared to the ruins of Ta Prohm as it was too nicely restored, along with crowds of people walking around the main areas I found it hard to find a beautiful scene to capture. The east entrance though was completely quiet, literally walking through a doorway took me from queues of people to no one where I sat and waited for sunset. Whilst the temple in full light didn’t inspire me, the silhouette of its pillars against the sky was beautiful.

ANGKOR WAT - CAMBODIA

Ta Prohm certainly stole my heart, but there were other temples I visited along the way that had some charm, some that were so peaceful as they were rarely visited, shown by the lack of stalls outside trying to sell me souvenirs. Gave me an idea of what it would be like to explore the area years ago before it became so popular.

TREE

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For my last sunset, I explored the Prasats Suor Prat, which many visitors passed right by barely giving them a glance. I was again alone amongst the beautiful 12 towers, wandering as the sun set searching for the perfect composition.

PRASATS SUOR PRAT SIEM REAP SUNSET

On my final day I my flight back to Singapore was at 5pm, and after so much time inside temples I wanted to see something different so I asked my Tuk Tuk driver to take me around some local places. He took me on a tour of the most interesting places he knew. I have visited many markets in Asia but still this one amazed me with the way they sold the meat, I just love how their feet sit amongst it. Such a great array of colours to capture as I wondered shooting for an hour amongst the local people.

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SIEM REAP MARKET KID

It was nice to spend 4 days shooting the intimate scenes or Angkor Wat, but also frustrating at times having to avoid the crowds. I also find it sad they are rebuilding my favourite temple, Ta Prohm. For me, it’s the ruined state that gives it the charm and magic to photograph and I wish all the temples had been left that way, being over taken by nature like a lost kingdom as they were once found.

Java, Indonesia and its many volcanoes has always excited me and has been on my list of must visit places since arriving in Asia over a year ago. I invited along a good friend, Sandra, who I had met a few months ago and had been teaching photography to. Java would be a great chance to just concentrate on her photography for 6 whole days would be the best way to learn. We planned the trip together and initially it was going to be a road trip but with her suggestion, we hired a guide instead, which turned out to be the best decision and possibly saved us from falling out with each other as we tried to navigate unmarked roads in the dark.

Our guide was called Machdi  who ran Bromo Ijen Tours, and he instantly struck me as a fun and friendly guy who seemed to get my sense of humour which is rare here. Our car was comfy and included pillows in the back so it felt quite luxurious. Our driver, Kaka was also very friendly so it looked like it was going to be a fun trip, except for all the crazy early mornings ahead. Our first stop was Mount Ijen a 7 hour drive from Surabaya airport, we arrived at 8pm at our basic homestay where we were served dinner and went straight to bed as we had to wake up at 3am to start our 2 hour hike to the top.

ijen squares

The hike was steep and I was just glad it was cool and breezy up in the mountains unlike at sea level, quickly my layers came off. It was completely dark as we set off but as we reached the top the sun rose and we could see the interesting landscape around us and the workers carrying the sulphur from the crater, they carry up to 100 kg through some steep and hazardous trails in poor air quality all for very little money. A tough job that most do for a lifetime. Seeing them made me think about ways their lives could be made much easier through technology, most ideas however were quickly shot down by Sandra.

IJEN LAKE

Inside the crater was one of the most amazing views I had seen so far, so many shapes, textures and colours to see and photograph. We started at the bottom shooting the workers amidst the hard to breathe gases that occasionally blew across us and we quickly donned our face masks which were little help and we still felt the burn in our throats.

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We slowly worked our way back up to the top shooting panoramics that caught our eyes along the way and stopping workers to take their photo with a small payment. I could see the hardship of their lives in their eyes. Once set up I would wait for the wind to blow just right so the rising mist flowed across the scene perfectly, sometimes it took seconds, sometimes 20 minutes. It was just nice to be with a fellow photographer for this reason as I didn’t feel rushed to get the shots I wanted.

IJEN LOW MIST 1 IJEN LAKE AND WORKERS

IJEN TOP SANDRA

IJEN TOP 1My favourite view was from the top at the crater edge, the textures in the crater from the rain were incredible, like an Alien world. Macdhi had a schedule for us to keep to be we had spent so long up here we didn’t get back to the car until 11am, he had sent another guide to come looking for us and even started walking up himself to see what had happened to us. I guess this is his first experience with photographers.

We were both exhausted now as we headed to our next stop, the isolate Sukamade Beach,sleeping a little in the car before switching into a jeep for the 4 hour bumpy journey that took us through a river. It became the best ride of my life when we got to sit on the roof and chat all the way to the beach in beautiful weather and surroundings.

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Sukamade Beach is a Sea turtle sanctuary and we came to see the turtles and release them into the sea. Because of our (my) extended time shooting on Ijen we had missed the evenings release but Machdi being a great guide arranged for us to do it at sunrise the next day. We went to our rooms which were the worst either of us had stayed in, not to mention we think this is where Sandra got her bed bug bites, I felt so guilty as it could have been me since we switched rooms twice as she was scared of the geckos in her room but quickly discovered I had more in mine than hers. So I narrowly avoided the bites myself. We didn’t even have hot water or a proper shower so I was splashing cold water on myself to bathe before air drying in the room since no towels were provided. After dinner we headed for the beach watch turtles lay their eggs along with 30 other people also visiting. We were made to sit in complete silence and darkness so as not to scare them away whilst we waited for a sighting, I wasn’t even allowed to take star pictures they were so scared any light would scare them. Then as one was found the horror show began, we all slowly walked toward it, then when the signal was given everyone went crazy tormenting the poor creature taking selfies and firing their flashes as she just tried to get back to ocean. If I was the turtle I would never come back again and they call this a sanctuary, Sandra and I were mortified by what we saw and decided to head back to our rooms when it was over rather than wait for a second sighting.

turtle squares

The next morning made up for all that though as we got a private release with a bucket full of baby turtles, it made being late worthwhile as we would have been with 30 other people the night before so it was so special and we got so many turtles to ourselves. We raced them and took pictures as they waddled toward the ocean, it was beautiful, romantic even as the sun rose seeing them begin their life journey. To Machdi’s horror I kept joking I wanted to eat the cute little turtles,  it was a wonderful beach and I couldn’t miss getting a shot .

sukemadesquares

With a 7 hour journey to our next Volcano, Mount Bromo we had no time to spare we were back on the roof of the jeep after breakfast for another great ride bumping along slowly. We arrived after sunset at our homestay, the nicest so far, there were 6 beds and we had the whole place to ourselves. We were both exhausted already only 2 days in and went to bed early before having to  wake at 2.30 am to jump in another jeep to get the best spots at the main sunrise viewpoint, we were the first to get there and secured our places but then had a long wait in the cold shivering for the sun to rise. Slowly the crowds poured in until there wasn’t any space to move, it is the best view of the volcanoes for sure, just a shame many would miss the great view there were so many people. It was both amazing and horrible at the same time, I’m just glad Machdi was experienced enough to know we had to get here very early otherwise we wouldn’t get our shots.

BROMO SUNRISE BROMO BW

After we headed along the tourist trail down into the valley with the hundreds of other jeeps to hike up to the rim of Mount Bromo, now the sun was out and it was so hot, not to mention we were tired so the relatively easy hike felt harder than Ijen but the view at the top was worth the effort looking into the middle of the active volcano. We sent an hour up there waiting for the wind to blow the smoke just right for another amazing picture.

bromo crater

It was now 9am and the sun was too high to take any more dynamic shots so we explored the area looking for a spot we could come to for our second day in Bromo, it didn’t take long to find it at the base of the mountain amongst some dunes that bikers love to come and ride.

I was completely lost as what to do for sunset, the angle of the mountains and sun this time of year meant everything was best at sunrise so we decided to see what Machdi had in mind and he took us to his sunset spot, this was very pretty however it wouldn’t be right after the sun has set since there isn’t enough shape in the mountains for it to look great in silhouette. It looked beautiful before the sun dipped below the mountains.

BROMO SUNSET POINT

It became a beautiful moment as the clouds started to drop into the valley below masked the scene, not good for a picture but we realised that maybe tomorrow the valley would be covered in mist, we were no torn on where to be at sunrise, I really wanted a great mist shot with the volcanoes but I couldn’t bare to go back to the sunrise point with hundreds of people so early again. We stuck to our previous plan to go to the dunes, that way we got a lay in until 4am before jumping in the jeep again and heading into the valley. We both felt and looked exhausted that morning, but Sandra had so much energy still it seemed to rub off on me. The valley was full of mist and I was a little gutted I hadn’t planned to be at sunrise point for an epic shot, but we made the most of the dunes as the sun slowly cleared the mist I shot as much as I could, even moving the jeep itself into shot for a new style.

BROMO SANDS MIST bromo sand jeep1 bromo sand

We were meant to leave Bromo after sunrise and head west to Malang and visit a strawberry farm, but Sandra and I decided we loved Bromo so much we wanted to stay another night to get one last sunrise. This time however we opted for the fancy Java Banana hotel, the best in the area, we just needed one night of luxury for our last night and a good shower. Whilst we waited for sunset we went to visit the nearby Madakaripura waterfall, Sandra said she is not interested in waterfalls but we had nothing better to do so thought why not, and it turns out she loved it. We had to walk under the falls as it dropped like heavy rain to get to the main pool, it was a very beautiful waterfall that no picture could do justice, you have to be there to appreciate its width and it falling from above the cliffs with the lush green foliage all around. Still I tried to take one pano that showed part of its beauty.

WATERFALL

At 3pm we headed back to the dunes at the base of Bromo, I was sure this would be the best time to photograph them with the sun hitting them just nicely from behind creating some nice shadows. We even got a great surprise when we arrived, some bikers were getting ready to ride the dunes so I quickly setup for one of my favourite shots of the trip, a Landscape panoramic with a human element. This shot alone made staying the extra night worth it and we got more the next morning as yet again the clouds rolled into the valley and I knew tomorrow we may have mist.

MOUNT BROMO BIKES

When we arrived at the hotel the power to our rooms was out, we were so disappointed  as we were looking forward to a nice shower and if we didn’t have power, we may as well have stayed at the homestay again.We went for dinner and looked at the photography that donned the hotels walls of the area happy we had bettered many of the shots on display. Thankfully by the time we finished, the power was on and we could shower and rest before our last sunrise.

We woke at 4.30am but Sandra decided she wanted to lay in, she was so tired still so I left in the jeep without her, as I arrived at our chosen spot the valley was full of mist so I called her to see if she wanted to come only to be told no. Moments later, however ,she called back and Machdi rushed back to pick her up ready to see the sunrise. It was beautiful, the light, the mist and we were the only people there, it was perfect and she was happy I called her to see it.

BROMO SUNRISE MIST2

Afterwards we headed back into the valley to try to capture a view we saw on of first day in Bromo with the mountains behind and the jeeps driving though shot. We positioned our jeep on the side of the road and waited for other jeeps to drive by, eventually I asked Sandra to pose on the jeep to finish off the shot, to add the human element again and I timed my exposure just as 2 other jeeps rushed by. A perfect final shot to an amazing trip, never before have I taken so many great shots on a short holiday.

BROMO JEEPS SANDRA

We ended the trip by visiting the rather disappointing strawberry and apple farm as originally planned before driving back to Surabaya airport for our 8pm flight, Machdi had one last surprise though, we all jumped onto the back of motorbikes for a 15 minute ride to visit Renokenongo, an entire village that was lost to the earth due to natural gas drilling, it was very sad as many lost their livelihood and years later still haven’t been paid any compensation.

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I  was sad to leave it had been so much fun thanks to both Machdi and Kaka, they did everything to make the trip fun and I hope I can visit again one day for a reunion. I wanted the trip to never end which is surprising for how tired I was the whole time. Java really is a visual feast.

 

 

 

I love to go on road trips and when Yann said she wanted to see the Sakura (cherry blossom) in Japan I began planning a 9 day holiday starting in Kyoto and doing a big 2000km circle through the Izu Peninsula, Mount Fuji, the Hot Springs of the Japanese Alps, Tojinbo Coast and then back to Kyoto to fly home. As much as I love to leave things to chance the short amount of time and cost meant I had to plan the trip perfectly to make the most of it.

We arrive at Kansai Airport late on a thursday night, the car rental office is closed so we have to stay in a hotel nearby for the night and collect the car in the morning. It’s a 1 and a half hour drive to Kyoto along the expressways all of which have tolls, it cost $40 just to get to Kyoto! I have planned a full day of sakura sightseeing because we are arriving at the tail end of the season, so it’s the only way to make sure we see the best of the blossom on offer before it all falls to the ground.

DAIGO TEMPLE KYOTO

Starting in Daigo Temple we visited the Kleage Incline, Kiyomizu-dera temple, Nanzen-ji Temple and ended the day wandering along the beautiful Philosophers walk full of cherry blossom and eating Japanese snacks from small stalls along the way. We had made it just in time and Yann was happy. One of the great things about Japan is it’s sat navs, you can search by phone number which makes it so much easier to find the pretty spots of Kyoto from my master plan without having to misspell the names all the time. At lunchtime whilst we were sat by the river eating some of out snacks, a bird, possibly a hawk, flew down and stole Yann’s lunch right from her hands, it was a crazy moment as I just felt this woosh as it’s wing brushed over my head. Now on top of dogs from her bite in Vietnam Yann is scared of birds.

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PHILOSOPHERS WALK KYOTO SAKURA CHERRY BLOSSOM

kyoto squares1For the whole trip I have booked the traditional Japanese style Ryokan which you can see above, this means essentially sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor and  difference in price is crazy for the same quality in in and out of the city. I had made a map of various trip advisor highly rated restaurants around and for dinner we decided to visit the one I had labelled ‘beef’, called Kyo no Yakiniku Hiro. It was probably the best beef I have ever eaten, we had raw beef with egg picture above, beef shushi, and their best fillet that we cooked above hot coals at our table that melted like butter in my mouth, and it only came to $70. It was so good we booked a table in 9 days when we will be passing through on our way back to the airport. For our remaining 2 days in Kyoto we visited many more temples, to the point we became all ‘templed out’ so then went to check something completely new, a local Bamboo Forest. We arrived early at 9am so I could get a picture without any people in, I got my shot just in time as the tour buses drove in making it difficult to shoot any more shots with the path in the composition. It’s actually quite a small area, I had hope we would be exploring paths for hours but we walked it in 5 minutes.

BAMBOO PATH SIDE

 

bamboo 1When you look at pictures of Kyoto online all you see are the pretty temples and parks, what you don’t see much of is the actual city which isn’t very beautiful as a whole when you wander the streets. So I didn’t take a single picture of it myself as it isn’t a city to fill my Cityscapes collection so all you will also see here is the pretty pockets on offer too. I had read that parking was expensive in Kyoto but I wasn’t quite ready for the reality, in our 3 days we racked up atleast $200 in parking costs, the most expensive during our  beef dinner at $12 an hour, quite a shock from a Londoner used to free street parking at night.

The last place we visited was the beautiful Fushimi Inari Shrine that winds it’s way up the hills, it was both a dream and a nightmare to shoot, so many angles to choose but so many people walking through frame to ruin it, we arrived too late and it was getting dark so I plan to revisit when we pass through Kyoto again.

On the road our next stop is the small town of Tago on the Izu Peninsula, 360km away which meant $80 in road tolls, it was worth it to see the  pretty coast and eat best Unago ever in the small fishing town. It is going to be an expensive trip but atleast now we are out of Kyoto we won’t have to pay for parking anymore. There were many interesting coastal formations to explore but my favourite are the 2 arches I was able to line up and shoot below.

IZU COAST

Mount Fuji is only 100km away from Izu so we had a nice scenic drive along the coast and stopped at the impressive Shiraito Falls nearby, it was a real pain shooting the panorama because the wind kept blowing water on to my lens but with some persistance and lots of cleaning I nailed it. The timing was perfect with the light illuminating half the waterfall.

SHIRAITO waterfall

We explored the 5 lakes around Mount Fuji at sunset and stayed the night at Lake Kawaguchi, I planned this so I could get a sunrise picture but the sunset was so nice I didn’t  wake up early, luckily for me it was overcast so I didn’t miss a beautiful sunrise.

MOUNT FUJI LAKE BOATS

fuji BLOSSOM 2

On our way north into the the Japanese Alps we stopped by some wineries to see how they make Sake and my favourite, Plum Wine, buying a few bottles to drink at our next stop, the Okuhida Hot Spring Villages. I was surprised to see that apparently playing music to the sake can change the taste, or something like that. Obviously only classic music though.

kyoto squares2

We stopped for dinner at a renowned Unago place in Matsumoto City called Matsuka, however it just didn’t compare to the eel I had  on the Izu Coast and was twice the cost. I had booked us into a Hot Spring Ryokan in the mountains called Okada Ryokan for 2 nights which included a huge multi course breakfast and dinner both days. We went up the nearby mountains in the morning on the cable car and then hiked for an hour in the snow, Yann didn’t look very happy all the way up as it was steep and slippery and we only had hiking trainers on however coming back down made up for it as we slid on our bums most of the way beating the hardcore hikers with ice grips and hiking sticks. Back at the base we warmed up in an outdoor public Hot Spring which was so hot it felt like I would boil if I was in for longer than a few minutes. There was a old guy in with me who kept trying to show me a way to peek into the girls side, dirty old man!

Many of the roads in the area are still closed for winter which meant my planned scenic route to take us to Tojonbo Coast in the north was out of the question. The trees were mostly still bare anyway so it wasn’t so picturesque and we probably didn’t miss much but I could see the surrounding mountains would be amazing in autumn. We arrive at our last stop, Tojinbo, just before sunset and I rush around shooting what I could before it was too dark realising I would have to come back in the morning to shoot it again for the best light.

TOJINBO COASTHaving reached day 9 it was time to to head back through Kyoto to the airport, on the way we stopped at the cool Shirahige Jinja Shrine in the huge Biwa Lake for lunch, it such a beautiful spot but right behind us was a busy road.

SHIRAIGE JINJA LAKE SHRINEBack in Kyoto I dropped off Yann to do some shopping whilst I headed back to the magical Fushimi Inari Shrine to shoot as much as I could in the 2 hours before I had to pick Yann up to head for our dinner reservation for more awesome raw beef. I had to be patient waiting for breaks in people to open the shutter for the 8 seconds needed on each exposure.

FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE KYOTO 5FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE KYOTO OUTSIDE

In the end we spent close to $4000 on the 9 days, similar to our trip to Italy 2 years ago but I remember italy being more fun, I think because there was more to see along the way. $500 alone was on parking and road tolls which is crazy but at least the roads were never busy, I am very happy at the number of great pictures I got though which outnumbered the italy trip but 3 times.

 

I love Japanese food so naturally I was excited to find out Yann was going there for work. It’s february and having lost my tolerance to the cold here in Singapore I need to wrap up warm.

ISLAND IN THE SKY

I love to look out the window of a flight watching the cloud formations that change by the minute, I always have my camera nearby in case something like the above appears. For such an advanced country I was amused to see the luggage belt, rather than an electronic screen displaying the belt info we had a lovely lady stood up there instead holding a board out with a big smile. I find it crazy how far away the main airport is having to take a 1.5 hour expensive bus ride to get to the centre, it got me thinking that maybe one day Tokyo will have expanded so much it will be at the edge. Even now Tokyo is such a big city it’s tough to be able to see everything in a short amount of time, something I always like to do so I know I am not missing out. I am reminded of London a little here, the kind of messy mix of architecture mostly from the 70s and 80s. When the sun sets and the city lights switch on is when Tokyo becomes beautiful and is when I will mainly be out shooting.

TOKYO SKYLINE

SHINJUKU CROSSING NEG

I wanted to capture the colourful streets and huge crossings, and whilst these are numerous getting the right angle was a challenge. Thankfully Yasukuni Dori in Shinjuku has an island in the middle so I could setup my tripod for the perfect shot.

I was recommended heading to the Mori Tower in Rappongi Hills by a friend for a great view of Tokyo and I wasn’t disappointed, I was up on the roof for 2 hours starting at sunset freezing my butt off to take the shot below. The city just goes on for miles.

TOKYO NIGHT

TOKYO CROSSING DAYI had bought a new lens for the trip that takes circular photos and thought this would be a good time to try it out wandering around Tokyo to get a different novel look to the city. Somehow it makes any picture interesting!

tokyo circles 1

tokyo circles 2

Yann was only working in Tokyo for 3 days and I needed longer so stayed for a whole week, I thought it would be fun to try out the capsule hotels that were famous, just for 1 night. They are actually quite comfortable! I also visited the huge electrical store at Akihabara called Yodobashi Camera, it seems like they sold anything you could ever want there and I was impressed to see a huge selection of film too.

tokyo squares

For my last 2 nights I wanted to be nearby the Rainbow Bridge as it looked like a good area to get a great Cityscape, so booked the Grand Pacific Daiba where I am hoping I may be able to get a shot from the roof too. I found a great spot on the Rainbow Bridge however the don’t allow tripods and it closes just after sunset meaning getting the perfect city night shot would be impossible, I at least captured a fairly nice sunset of the composition. It was also very windy so it is probably a good thing I couldn’t get the shot as it would only have been blurry with the 4 minute exposure I needed.

TOKYO RAINBOW BRIDGE

Back at the hotel I went to see the manager to see if I could get on the roof the get a shot, they said no but could take me up to the highest floor, but that was no good as they wouldn’t turn the lights off on the function room so the shot would have been ruined, after that the assistant manager took me to the roof, I was ecstatic and rushed t get the shot so as not to waste his time.

rainbow bridge

 

With plenty of great Tokyo shots in the bag I was happy to head back to Singapore to warm up, even the taxi ride back was interesting as the driver had lots to say about the second world war and his father helping the brits. He was such a character I had to get a shot of him.

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My 4th visit to Hong Kong in the last year has made me forget about the washout in July, it was clear everyday and I made the most of it by hiking the kowloon peak and lions rock again to take the shots I wasn’t able to. Singe was here again so joined me as we shivered when the sun set waiting  for the city lights high in the hills. Sadly his Canon 5d Mark 3 was still out action after getting wet at lions rock last time. We had the same difficulty in pursuing the taxi drivers to take us to our hiking points, only after offering double did we get anywhere.

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HONG KONG BEACON HILL

One of the things I love about Hong Kong other that being surrounded by mountains is the Trams and is something I have been trying to get a great shot of. This time I was determined to find the spot and be there when the light was nice.  I waited over an hour for the Trams to line up just perfectly worried the angle of the sun would change and I would lose the great back lighting, but I got the shot just in time.

HONG KONG TRAMS

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I am left still wanting more from Hong Kong, it is a great city to shoot however I have certainly got plenty of shots to fill my Asia book!

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I am excited to be launching my first exhibition here in Singapore and everyone is invited to the opening event at Artistry, 17 Jalan Pinang, Singapore, 199149 on Thursday 20th February 7-9pm with an exclusive 10% discount for 1 night only on my work.

Cityscapes is a collection from my on-going project to capture the worlds cities in all their grandeur, it has been 5 years in the making so far and is something that will continue and expand over my lifetime as cities grow and the world changes.

There will be some delicious nibbles and drinks so please bring along your friends and make it a great night, you can RSVP at exhibit@jasondenning.co.uk or via the facebook event.

The exhibition runs until March 16th so if you can’t make the opening night there is still plenty of time to check out some of my finest work.

 

 

Over Christmas my Girlfriend, Yann, wanted to take a long break and visit Vietnam where her family are originally from and  it would be an interesting change to the usual Christmas with the family. Starting in Hanoi I planned the 10 days with a surprise in the middle for Christmas day for her.

Yann has visited Ho Chi Minh City before and said it was crazy with congestion and bikes so Hanoi was a nice change from that, there is still a crazy amount of bikes and general chaos on the roads but apparently it’s heaven compared. We had 3 days to explore the city where we wandered the markets, watched a water puppet show and ate lots of food. I’m sad to say though that I didn’t really have any food I though beat the great Vietnamese of London, the best we had was some street food that I have no idea what it was pictured below. Our Hotel, the Golden Sun Villa, was very nice and a bargain for the quality, but I did feel the staff were over doing how nice they were, it seemed fake just to get a good trip advisor review to get to the top of the charts, they even mentioned it as we checked out. There was even an elderly American man staying there too who had a very young Vietnamese girl with him, oh dear.

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I wanted to capture the organised chaos of the junctions as well as the old town architecture on panoramic film so searched the streets for the best spot where I then waited for the perfect moment during a 2 second exposure, pictured below. For me it sums up Hanoi completely with the traffic fighting it’s way through, it’s amazing to watch. I can imagine it would have been wonderful to visit before the motorbike was invented and everyone rode on bicycles.

I was told Vietnam was a good cheap place to get a suit made and I had always wanted a nice casual linen jacket so I decided to be fitted for one, at first I thought it was a bargain when he quoted the price, until I find out it was in US dollars not Vietnamese Dong. Still $150  was a cheap for a nice jacket from a the best tailor in town so I went ahead anyway, you can see the jacket if you look at my exhibition photos posted here shortly.

HANOI CITY DAY 1

Our next stop was Hong Hai near Ha Long city, my research had found a great viewpoint you could hike up to so naturally I booked 2 nights at the Ha Long DC hotel nearby so I could head up at sunset and sunrise. To get there we took a tour bus from Hanoi that was taking people for a boat tour of Ha Long Bay and it was a bumpy and cramped 4 hour drive, the funny thing is many passengers on the bus were only doing a 1 night boat tour which means they would have the same long drive tomorrow back to Hanoi, we had a few days here to make the journey worth it.

Yann had some work to do so I headed straight for the viewpoint which took me about an hour to find the entrance to the stairs because of wrong directions from the hotel, of course I also had to pay a fee as I had to walk through someones land but it was only a dollar and more than worth it for the spectacular view from the top. By far the best view of Ha Long Bay I saw on the whole trip.

Christmas Eve morning we both woke up early to head up to the viewpoint for sunrise and were greeted by a closed gate and a barking dog was chained up the day before. I thought what the hell and opened the gate to walk through at which point the owner came out and quickly moved us through but then Yann was bitten on the bum by the dog as we walked up the stairs, she ran straight past me the angry little thing! It was worth it though for the view of the sun rising behind the cliffs. Later on I took the Hotel manager to talk to the dog owners to make sure it has a Rabies shot, Yann is a worrier! The angry dog is pictured below.

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Hong Hai is not a very touristy area as many usually just head straight for a boat tour , it was nice and quiet around and had a local feel wandering the food markets and the coastline. Christmas Eve is when all the festivities happen in Vietnam so hordes of people were out to visit the church that night and of course I was the only white guy so I would get whole cafes looking up and staring and even a handshake from one guy. At least it’s a better reaction than in Indonesia where they want to take a picture with me and then walk away giggling saying ‘it’s because you are so white.’

HA LONG BOATS

As Christmas day came it is time for my surprise, a 2 day fancy boat tour of Ha Long Bay. I’m not usually one to do tours hating the set itinerary but it really is the best way to see the area and included fun activities like kayaking through caves and relaxing on an empty beach in some remote parts of the bay where very few people visit as it isn’t park of the 1 day tour.  I did miss a german guy falling into the water fully clothed with his camera too, poor guy but apparently it was funny because they couldn’t get him back out the water, that would have been a great video.

HA LONG CAVE

On the boat women would row to our window and try to sell us booze since it was expensive on the boat, I was well prepared for that and had already brought a bottle on board. It was very cozy (cramped) but a fun experience to sleep in on a boat and wake up with the amazing view.

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HALONG BAY REFLECTIONS

HA LONG BAY PEAKBack on land I had arranged for a car to take us to Tam Coc, an area known as the Ha Long Bay on land 4 hours away which with give us a different experience as we could hire bikes and cycle around. I enjoyed it more than Ha long because of the freedom it gave us to do our own thing. We stayed in a new hotel called the Anna Tham View, it was cheap and nice nestled in the limestone cliffs and the family that run it are wonderful. The grandmother even came cycling with us to show the way to an amazing cave and Yann got to practice her Vietnamese.

VIETNAM TAM COC CAVE

tamcocWe were pleasantly surprised at the caves we got to see in the Bird park on the boat tours, something I had not expected to see, some of them were pitch black as you paddle through shining a torch to see the way and stalactites almost hitting your head if you are looking the wrong way, a very cool experience not to be missed.

What made Tam Coc even better was how few tourists there were this time of year so it was nice and quiet like we had the whole place to ourselves. During our bicycle tour of the area my wheel completely buckled about 3 miles away from the hotel so Yann had to cycle with my on the back all the way, it was very funny because it looked like I had hired someone to cycle for me, we got some odd looks on the way back.

VIETNAM tam coc bike

After 2 nights in Tam Coc and some of the best food on the trip cooked at the hotel we headed back to Hanoi to catch our flight back to Singapore, it was a great trip and the perfect amount of time in each location.

When I got the chance to go to Beijing in December to work for a week I jumped at the chance wanting to photograph the Great Wall of China which is nearby along with ticking another city off my list. Other than Hong Kong which doesn’t really count this is my first time in China so I need a visa to enter which requires a flight booking before I can even apply.

I spent the first few days in Beijing exploring the city, sadly it’s freezing cold this time of year and 10 months in Singapore has ruined my tolerance. This also means coal fires are ablaze and the Beijing smog is ruining my attempts for a great city shot, but I see this as an opportunity to shoot it both with and without so long as it clears before I leave. Amazingly on the same day I shot the lost city below the winds came and the evening was clear to take the next.

BEIJING MIST NIGHT

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The smog seems to have also taken it’s toll on the Olympic Park, I would have thought it was built in the 80s walking around seeing the poor state it’s in. So much for the Olympic legacy 6 years on.

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It’s an interesting city to wander and see how people live differently, quite happy to hang their meat next to the laundry on the street. It has a huge art district called the 798 Art Zone  full of interesting sculptures like the cow below. China’s lack of copyright laws was apparent with Jessica Alba on the box of a vibrating condom and a toilet with a famous painting and the tag line “feel the art life.” Oh boy I had never felt so artsy sitting on a toilet.

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There are numerous sections of the Great Wall near Beijing so I had to do my research on where to go for my 4 days, I ended up choosing Mutianyu and Jinshanling because they were not as touristy as Badaling meaning I wouldn’t have to worry about people walking through my pictures and Simatai was currently closed. I tried to reserve hotels there but couldn’t find any way to do that online so decided to wing it armed with google translate. To get there I had joined a tour so if I couldn’t find anywhere to stay I could just head back to Beijing on the bus. My tour to Jinshanling set off at 8.30am but when I arrived they said it had been cancelled as I was the only person, I was devastated. The good news was they had a tour to Mutianyu leaving at 8.30 too, so it was lucky I had no hotel bookings and also wanted to visit that section.

I was in my element wandering the Great Wall for miles, the weather was perfect and once the few people that came for day tours had left I was the only person on the wall for sunset. At every corner there was something new to see and loved every step  as I left the restored sections of Mutianyu into the old of Jiankou. I loved the mountainous backdrop and being able to see the wall traverse the mountains for miles but this mean a hell of alot of steps that I got bored of at the end of only day 1. Atleast getting down was easy as they have a toboggan from the top for a fun exit. I spent the whole day wandering the wall buying extortionately priced snacks from sellers on the wall, I didn’t really mind since they had made alot of effort to get up here.

MUTIANYU GREAT WALL OF CHINA

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MUTIANYU OLD WALL

I was told by the tour guide that a local restaurant may have a room I can stay in a with luck they did for 150rmb. It’s a shame the food was pretty terrible but the subway nearby was no better. The best thing was the owner would drive me to the 2 hours to the  Jinshanling section of the wall for 750rmb and arranged a hotel for the 2 nights there.

Jinshanling is by far the prettiest part of the Great Wall, just as I thought when I was doing my research. The hotel was nice and quite new and the owners home cooked food was surprisingly good, it’s a shame I have no idea what the hotel is called to recommend it. The owner  and I would talk by pointing and using google translate to get by. Each morning I woke up early for sunrise and spent the whole day on the wall walking as far as I could, heading back to my perfect spot twice for sunset to make sure I nailed it.

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It’s been almost 6 months since my last blog post and I’m scratching my head as to why that is, I have been travelling alot since then but still I’m not sure I have a good excuse for why I didn’t share this trip to Chiang Mai in Thailand sooner. The good thing is I have since visited Beijing, Vietnam, Hong Kong (yes again), Tokyo and Kyoto so you shouldn’t have to wait too long for the next post!

Every year in November there is a mass lantern release at the Mae Jo University in Chiang Mai which is part of the Yi Peng festival. Naturally being so close we wanted to see it since everyone said how amazing an experience it is. When planning the trip the release dates hadn’t been announced and we had to travel a specific weekend as we were meeting Yann’s friend Joseph, it was around the main festival as we though at least we would see the rest of the celebrations that take place all around the city. As our trip came closer it was announced the event would take place the saturday we arrived, however our flight lands at 5.30pm and the release starts at 6.30, there was little chance we could make it but we would try.

As we exited the airport to jump in a taxi we were met with a 1 hour wait and told they wouldn’t take us to Mae Jo where it would happen, I ran around all the car rental companies thinking that could work but all booked up until the last one said his friend runs a local car rental company in town so he called him and within 15 minutes we were on our way, as we drove closer we could see lanterns into the distance so we though it had already happened but continued on in the hopes of at least  seeing something as releasing our own, following the lanterns I managed to find a place to park in someones home for $1 which turned out to be right around the corner and within minutes at we were amongst the crowds trying to get into the main event. It was now almost 8pm and I was sure it had happened, lost of lanterns were in the sky but as we got in the countdown to the release began, I couldn’t believe we had made it just in time!

It really was an amazing and unique experience that you won’t see anywhere else, I was skeptical at first reading how people cried but I almost teared up myself with the beautiful visual of the floating lanterns, the music and the happy people all around. All the lanterns floated to make a perfect, almost galaxy like visual that I was excited to capture in my panoramic. Sadly this is one shot I can’t capture on film due to the slow shutter speeds so this is a rare digital panorama.

CHIANG MAI THAILAND LANTERNS

It was a beautiful event to wander around, some of the monks wanted to get a picture with me so I made sure I matched their happy poses for the camera.

lanterns

On the first night the trip was complete for me, I could go home happy however we still had 3 more days to spend here filled with temples, an elephant park and Tiger Kingdom, a place you can actually pull on the tail of an adult tiger! It’s amazing to get so close and be in the enclosure whilst they play fight.

chiang mai

Hiring the car turned out to be a good decision as it allowed us to travel up into the mountains into Doi Inthanon National Park and see some waterfalls and the Great Holy Relics Pagoda which overlooks the valley below.
DOI ITHANON THAILAND

 

BAGAN

Until 2 years ago Myanmar was closed to tourism, making it the second most isolated county after North Korea. It’s a great time to go before it gets tainted by the tourist industry to see a county as it truly is.

With only 5 days that gave us enough time to visit the capital Yangon, and Bagan where 4000 temples sit waiting to be explored. Everything is  cheap here except for 2 things, hotels and internal flights. Apparently it’s because of supply and demand for our western standard rooms, you basically end up paying what you would in a European city. In Thailand by comparison $20 US Dollars can get you amazing rooms in some parts of the country. Our short 50 minute internal flight from Yangon to Bagan cost us the same as our 3 hour return from Singapore, but it did come with a free danish. Local spirits however are incredibly cheap at only US$1 for a small bottle and tasted better than the mass-produced western versions.

Yangon is a nice city for a tourist to visit in 3rd world Asia because you don’t get hassled yet to buy anything like many cities as a tall glowing white man. It’s an interesting city just to walk around with monks crossing the streets, barbed wire barriers, street sellers and bright gold pagodas shining in the distance. In chinatown we ate the best fish ever and it only cost $1, I need to find out how to make that fish! It’s very easy to get around with cheap but descent taxis everywhere and they didn’t try to rip us off like they would in Bali or Thailand.

YANGON 1

YANGONThe main attraction is the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda, it felt like Disney Land walking around with all the gold, but also a special place with local Burmese coming in their thousands everyday.

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YANGON

The highlight for me was the Yangon circular railway, it’s a $1 slow bumpy 3 hour ride around the city with open windows to stick your head out of and take in the city. There is so much going on with people walking home along the tracks, markets at stations, volley ball games. I even saw a dog that had been crushed by a train.

YANGON TRAIN 1

I would get smiles and waves along the way, like they were seeing something new just like I was, I shot almost 1000 pictures in the 3 hours alone.

MONK ON TRAIN

 

YANGON TRAIN 2

Flights to Bagan all leave around 6am from Yangon so we had to get up early, at least it gave us a full day of exploring the temples on bikes. I am glad we came in low season as this is one of the touristy areas or Myanmar and apparently it can get very busy in peak season. Most of the day we didn’t see another person as we wandered in and up numerous temples. The crowds came out for sunset when everyone heads to see it in the best high spots looking across the valley.

TEMPLES SUNSET MASTER

For sunrise the next day we hired a horse and cart to take us around for few hours for $12, my chosen spot was nice and quiet and thankfully Yann was entertained by a young girl whilst I was busy taking pictures. We even got some Thanaka put on our faces by her mother, it’s a white substance made from ground bark the women wear because it has a cooling effect. Apparently it’s just for women but I wanted to try it.

BAGAN 1

THE LOST KINGDOM

I love how it looks like a lost kingdom in the shot above, it was my favourite viewpoint in Bagan giving a great sense of the time that has passed since they were all built. I still wanted to find the perfect shot for sunrise with the temples in silhouette so I continued exploring but it turned out I had already visited the perfect spot, it was the first temple we climbed but it took me visiting every other one before I knew that. The sunrise the next morning was spectacular and it was the first day of the season the hot air balloons were in use so my timing, or rather delay in finding the spot was perfect.

BAGAN

TEMPLE FARM

It was interesting to see the land around the temples being farmed and I found this great location above, where after a bit a waiting the scene came together perfectly. Bagan is certainly an amazing place to get lost in and we had awesome weather considering it was the tail end of the rainy season. One day you may not even be able to climb to the top of the temples as the government are slowly closing them to preserve them, and I am sure tourism will change this place eventually so I am glad I got to see it now.

On our way back home to Singapore I was glad to see not everything in this country is stuck in the past.

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I did a weekend photography trip with some fellow Singaporeans over a month ago that I completely foot to post about. It was in a small town called Mersing about a 3 hour drive from Singapore which has some beautiful coast to shoot, I was very surprised about how nice it was and exploring the mangroves there, a shot I had wanted to get elsewhere but never found the perfect setting. Of course I was the only photographer shooting film.

MERSING MANGROVE 1

It was an interesting change to Thailand where you can find nice hotels for £10 a night, here for the same money you get an old small room with a shower in the toilet only spurting cold water, thankfully zircon was provided. We rose early and stayed up late exploring and shooting waiting for the tide to get the shots I wanted.

MERSING COAST SUNRISE

LONE TREE

Sadly the trip was cut short by a day, as we were approaching a junction 2 12 year old girls on a motorbike decided not to stop at t stop sign and we hit them, it became a crazy day as all the locals thought I was the driver since I was the only white guy and at one point the father even came at me with a metal rod! Clearly they love foreigners. The car was in a mess so we all returned back to Singapore that night as they were scared of the village coming to find us even though it wasn’t the drivers fault. There is one thing I learnt from that, air bags are scary.

Since arriving in Asia I have been looking for new avenues to show my work, one pursuit has been airline magazines and it paid off with my first pitch to Australian Airline Jetstar.

I was inspired on a trip to the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand as we discovered an awesome hidden village that I called ‘The Secret Village’. The final articles title isn’t quite as mysterious but still great to know I can write.

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The always say 3rd time lucky, however for me it seems to have been opposite this time. My 2 previous trips brought me several great panos of the city but this time I timed it all wrong as it was cloudy and rainy the entire week. My friend Singe was also in town from London and we planned some great hikes despite the weather that includes the Dragons back, Kowloon Peak and Lions Rock. It isn’t easy trying to persuade taxi drivers to go of the beaten track so we could get to our start points and even funnier when we get to the top of Kowloon peak to be greeted with no view at all because of the mist, at least there were pictures of the view so we could see what we were missing. Along the way I kept walking into spiders webs across the paths, the spiders had calculated for average height of Asian people and hadn’t expected a tall Englishman to come, they were huge scary looking slides too!

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HK 180MM c

HK NORTH POINT I did manage to get some nice shots when the mist cleared and the best thing about hiking with Singe is he takes some great shots of me I can use for my bio when his head isn’t buried in his phone. Our hike up to Lions rock was the worse of all 3 as it poured down most of the time so we got soaked, it was amazing to see the city as we walked above the clouds when the mist cleared occasionally. Singe sadly wasn’t as prepared as me as his bag wasn’t waterproof so a puddle formed inside killing his 6 month old Canon 5d Mark 3, thankfully after 6 months in a dry bag it is finally working again which gives me some relief since it was my idea to continue the hike in the rain.

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HK LION PEAK

There are some amazing hikes that I will certainly do again next time I am in here and shoot the city at night when the weather is better, it’s amazing how much outdoor space there is here and great to see lots of people running up the mountains, some very fit retired people in Hong Kong!

I just got back from a week in Southern Thailand, it’s the rainy season there now so I was taking a chance but got very lucky for the first few days.

Yann and I landed in Phuket late on friday and got a taxi to Phuket Town to sleep before and early ferry to the Phi Phi Islands. It was a great day to take the ferry as this time of year the seas can be choppy but it was very smooth so hopefully this keeps up the whole weekend for my planned Phi Phi Island boat tour. We are staying at the outriggers resort on Ko Phi Phi Don which after the 2 hour ferry to the main port there is still another 30 minute longtail boat ride to the north of the Island, as there are no roads this is the quickest way. So after a 2 hour flight, overnight stay, 2 hour ferry and 30 minute boat ride we arrive at the resort at 11.45am on saturday. At least the journey is a pretty one and we got to enjoy the old Phuket Town briefly otherwise it would not be worth it for just a weekend here.

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The resort is beautiful and we go straight out to enjoy the beach and lie in the Hammocks, I of course bring my camera and search out for some interesting shots. I have never seen such clear water.

OUTRIGGERS

 

OUTRIGGERS 2

 

We had read online for food to head to the village behind the resort which is cheaper but also better, after a long search we finally discovered our way out and wandered the quiet streets, it almost felt we were in an episode of lost. The locals are very friendly and would happily talk for hours if we had the time, we booked a boat tour for sunday and stopped at Pad Thai for dinner.

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The boat tour was worth every penny at only 2000 Baht for 6 hours, especially when we would see speedboats packed full of people, we visited the famous Maya Bay from the beach movie was beautiful but crowded, I was lucky to be able to get this shot will no people or the many boats just out of frame to the right.

MAYA BAY THAILAND

 

It was a perfect day, my favourite beach was a small cove just behind Maya Bay and we had it all to ourselves, crazy when it was busy everywhere else. We snorkelled nearby for the first time between the coral and colourful fish everywhere.

BAY BEACH 4

 

For sunset we ventured to Nui Bay that we were told about, it requires a steep climb but is worth the effort to have a whole beach to yourself and go skinny dipping as the sun sets below the horizon. After we had a delicious seafood tasting menu in the village at the P P Red Tuna Hut.

PHI PHI SUNSET

 

As monday came it was time for Yann to fly back whilst I was staying for another 4 days. We caught the last ferry as a storm started to roll in, we really had just caught the best weather as we were told this has been the first sun for a few weeks. The ferry ride was very choppy as the rain started to fall but I enjoyed watching the boat splash through the waves form the deck.

I rented a car at the airport and headed for Phang-Nga Bay where I had planned to take a boat tour the next day. I stayed at the Phang-Nga resort which was very run down but the perfect location next to the bay. I woke to the sun shining and got ready to make the most of it, however by the time I got to the pier it started to rain and I decided to wait for a day when the weather would be better and hit the road, I didn’t have a plan on where to go as I was going to stay around Phang-Nga the whole 4 days, but I had read that the weather is better on the east coast so ended up driving all the way over to Don Sak to see what the coast is like there, the weather is better and I check into a nice hotel, I was very impressed for only 1500 baht. I eat dinner at a new bar that had opened up and chatted to the Australian for an hour.

It was beautiful the next day however the coast didn’t have any picture opportunities so I headed for Sikiet Waterfall, it’s an amazingly natural area that felt like I was deep in the jungle and spent hours exploring and taking pictures.

SI KIET WATERFALL

 

There wasn’t much water flowing down the river but that quickly changed when it started to pour with rain, 30 minutes later everywhere I had been walking just before was completely flooded and the river now flowing very quickly.Even the bridge I had to walk across was mostly submerged, it’s an awesome sight to see, but also I could have bee stranded on the other side if my timing had been off!

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Next I head to Khao Sok National Park for a boat tour of the lake, it’s still rainy but doesn’t look like it’s going to get batter before I leave on friday. Halfway though the tour I ask the driver to stop so I can take a picture but then the engine won’ start up again, the battery is dead. We then have to wait 2 hours for another boat tome come and bring a new battery, whilst waiting I got to see one of the floating resorts on the lake, it sounds like an ideal place but I am not impressed by this one, the food wasn’t good and the rooms didn’t look comfortable. Eventually the 2nd boat turned up and towed us to the main attraction so I could shoot pictures whilst they sorted the battery.

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LAKE

 

Back at the pier after my 3 hour tour had become 5 I head back to Phang-Nga Bay hoping the weather would turn for my last day on friday. I wake to the room glowing yellow, but that was the rooms curtains deceiving me, it was still rainy. The was the most frustrating place to get a boat tour as I felt like they were trying to rip me off, the starting price was twice what I paid on Phi Phi but for only half the time. I eventually got hem down to 1800 Baht but should have just walked away as the tour was annoying and the driver would not stop when I wanted to. The sun came out briefly between the spouts of heavy rain atleast.

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Part of the tour included a stop on James Bond Island, named so because the location was used in The Man with the Golden Gun movie, it’s a shame it was very touristy on the tiny island with lots of stalls selling junk. It’s certainly pretty though, I only wish the weather was better. Atleast I got some fantastic shots at the beginning of the trip.

JAMES BOND

I was early heading back to the airport on friday so decided to stop Nai Yang beach nearby, I even found a shot to take last minute as a couple enjoyed dinner on a swing for sunset.

NAI YANG SUNSET

I can’t resist the opportunity to get back to Hong Kong, I got some great street shots last time but the ultimate cityscape eluded me. I am determined to get it this time.

Waking up at 4am for  3 mornings in a row I jumped in a cab and went to the peak, it’s the best time of the year to shoot the city because the angle of the sun is perfect as it rises giving the best chance for a great shot. The first morning the peak was covered in mist which gave some great dynamics to the shot below masking the sun and darkening the sky. I had got the perfect shot the first day but maybe it could get better which is why I went up the next 2 mornings.

HONG KONG DAY 1 SUNRISE

By 6.30am I am finished  but Yann is still sleeping in the Hotel  so I decided to kill some time and wander the Victoria Peak gardens, I didn’t expect to see much but was amazed by them, especially with the mist that frequents the area giving it a magical feel. It’s almost like I am in the middle of a jungle somewhere rather than a city path.

HK PEAK

After each sunrise I head back to the hotel for a big breakfast and a few hours sleep before getting up to explore some more. I decided a good way to see the city would be a big red bus tour, I’ve never done one before and maybe I’ll find something new as it takes me all over the Island. It was on this that I discovered they have a shanty town!

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I found one location on the ride but sadly it wasn’t a horizontal panoramic, but a vertical one. I normally shoot Slide film but contrasty scenes like this need negative film and its wide dynamic range to capture everything.

HK STREET VERT

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One the bus I also spotted a hill to the west of the Island that looked like it may be a great sunset spot, and after some google maps research pinpointed it to be near North Point and a trail up to it, so at 5pm I headed that way. I eventually found the start of the trail and only by luck spotted where to go through some thick bushes which took me out to the rocks for the view, sadly though everyone else seems to know about this as there was hardy anywhere left to set my tripod. Normally I would leave with this many photographers as I don’t want the same shot but it had taken over an hour to get here and I had no where else to go for sunset so decided to stay and see if something spectacular came. It was good but nowhere near as amazing as the Peak from the mornings, the scene is too far away and no interesting buildings nearby.

NORTH POINT

I even tried to better my shot of the Peak Tram from the first trip, but it just looks too plain without the thick mist, still a nice summers day version that I can try to sell to the tram company.

HK PEAK TRAM SUN

On friday Yann and I headed for Macau, only an hours ferry ride and if you didn’t know the gambling capital of the east. It is also a Unesco World Heritage City so there is lots to see however I didn’t find any great scenes to shoot walking around. We ate some great Portuguese influenced food though and gambled away some hard earned money.

We planned to visit the Big Buddha on the way back to the airport, however that plan was ruined as we took the ferry to the Airport Ferry Terminal thinking we could go from there to the Buddha as it’s closer then the Central Terminal. The terminal connects directly to the Airport and once we were there they wouldn’t let us leave for the 5 hours we were there which I thought was crazy and very annoying. Surely it’s my right to do what I want?!

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It’s just lucky Yann is a BA miles Gold member and we got to use the Cathay Pacific lounge and it’s private rooms with big tubs. The best lounge I’ve been to with great food and cocktails. I even used the time to find a shot of the airport.

HONG KONG AIRPORT

Arriving back in Singapore I realised it’s probably  the most efficient airport in the world, we touched down at 7.57pm and were in a cab with our luggage by 8.15pm. Crazy, of course the automated passport systems we can use help avoid the normal queues.

 

 

 

 

Malacca is so close to Singapore in Malaysia that we can take a bus, the advertised journey time is 3-4 hours so not too bad and only S$80 return for the whole trip. Sadly however it actually took 5.5 hours, getting through customs was very slow and our driver didn’t seem to be in a rush with trucks and other buses passing us all the way.

We arrived at 12.30am and hadn’t had any dinner as we thought we could grab something on the way but we only stopped at some horrid fly infested toilets, see the lovely picture below.

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The nearest place open that was thankfully still serving food was the Hard Rock Cafe in Malacca, it’s actually a strange location for it in the middle of a Unesco Heritage Area, it’s the newest building around. The pulled lamb sandwich was very tasty. We are staying at the Paradise Riverside Hotel, sounds great doesn’t it? I booked it through Agoda and fell a bit cheated as nowhere did it mention it was shared bathrooms and even though it was clean it was too expensive for the tiny room and zero facilities. It was nice by the river though with all the painted buildings to walk by.

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Being a Unesco World Heritage Site I thought there would be at least one great place on the streets to get a shot but sadly it was just too messy and too much traffic. It was only at night when they shut the main Jonker Street for the night market but I wanted a shot during the day.

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My favourite place was the Malacca Straits Mosque, pictured at the top of this post, it’s a bit out the way and you have to take a taxi there but worth it to see the sunset behind the floating Mosque.

The food highlight was the famous Satay Celop for the area, you buy skewers of meat, fish and vegetables at 12 pence each and cook them in the boiling peanut satay source, if you love satay like I do you will love it!

I read online we should visit Ban Lee Siang as it’s favoured by the locals and not so touristy, however when we arrived there were two! Apparently owned by 2 squabbling siblings, we chose the one with the smallest queue obviously.

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Our table was at the back and we had to walk through the kitchen to get to it, this place would be shut down if it was in the UK, come to think of it most of the restaurants we eat at on our travels would be shut down.

The bus back took just as long but I used the time to try some new experimental shots. Sadly it’s probably the last time I will take a bus from singapore into Malaysia, it just takes too long.

PROJECT LIGHT 3-1

 

Kuala Lumpur is only a 45 minute flight from Singapore, you barely getting to flying altitude before we are descending down to land. You would think it would be easier to take a train or bus but flying actually ends up slightly quicker and you can get flights for as little as £25. The cheap flights however mean you land in the budget carrier terminal which is an interesting experience. You basically walk out on the runways with the loud planes nearby, I found it quite cool and the walkway is thankfully covered for when it rains.

I could only find a few cool things about Kuala Lumper to make it worth a visit, the Petronas Towers and Batu Caves. No one else could tell me what else was worth seeing there. As with every city I want to get a shot that represents it, but here it was tough because other than the Petronas Towers most buildings weren’t pretty and during my 3 days I didn’t find the perfect shot, the heat here also makes it even harder walking around to find the right location.

A visit up the Patronas Towers was nice but a waste because of the weather sadly and they only give you 15 minutes up there unlike other buildings where you can spend as long as you want. The tickets sell out quickly so I had to book the day before.

The Batu (rock) Caves are only a 30 minute train ride from the centre and costs 20 pence! Lot’s of people online recommended getting a taxi there and having it wait for you but I wanted to take my time inside and the train station is right outside the caves so a taxi is just a waste of money. The train was just as easy as in London or any other big city.

As well as being a cave temple it is also a rock climbing destination and it is an amazing cave and a must see if you happen to be in Kuala Lumpur. There are 276 steps up to the caves full of yet again, monkeys, I would love to know what is so holy about them.

I wanted a shot that didn’t include all the man made structures so opted for a frame looking up so as to crop them out as they ruined the insides a little.

Water was constantly dipping in the opening of the cave and I wanted to get a shot looking up as the water dripped past, it was very hard to frame and you can only just see the water, not as powerful as I hoped.

This is the kind of shot that a true panoramic camera beats all stitched panoramas because you get the nice perspective as the rock walls come towards you.

BATU CAVES UP C

There is also a dark cave tour that I decided to go on, it was full of bats making incredible sounds all the way through. Other than the Dine in the Dark restaurant in London it’s the darkest place I’ve been to, when I turned off my torch I could not see a thing, and with all the creepy crawlies in there not everyone would like it.

Strangely though the train back to the city centre is double the cost of getting here, I thought the conductor was conning me at first.

You can get some great cheap food in KL, on the way back I stopped in a park and ate with the locals to have Nasi Goreng, I didn’t actually know what it was and just ordered a name I recognised from Singapore on the menu. The waiter was ecstatic when I gave him a 30 pence tip, he was very nice and honest as I thought the price was double what it actually was and paid him too much.

I then walked through the city hoping for a great shot for my last night here, but the best I found was this.

The Patronas Towers look amazing lit up at night so I decided to walk all the way to them to get a closer shot, I almost wish I could take a night shot high up in the towers like my day shot but I would be shooting through glass and they don’t allow tripods up there so it would be no good, I may have to try to arrange a shoot up there on the open terraces another time.

PETRONAS NIGHT LIGHTS

For dinner I tried out an interesting restaurant called T-Bowl, where you get to sit on toilets and the meals come in interesting bowls.  Mmmm those ice creams look yummy. The food was good though!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone talks about Bali and being so near I had to go and see what all the fuss is about. We booked 5 days there and with the help of a friend back in London and lots of research decided on 2 places to stay during that time and 2 days of touring.

We flew out of Singapore on friday night, this was my first night flight and the hundreds of ships lining the coast looked beautiful all lit up into the distance from the plane window.

As we arrived we were haggled by all the taxi drivers outside the airport, as it was our first time we stuck to airport taxi system of queuing to buy a voucher even though it’s the same drivers offering the ‘deals’. Our first 3 nights are in Ubud, an hours drive away. We chose to stay at the Alam Indah Hotel in a room with a balcony overlooking beautiful gardens and an open air shower, amazing. Whilst I didn’t see it when we arrived, as soon as I woke I got the Bali feeling, I felt relaxed. I could instantly see what people loved about the place and the weather was perfect coming from Singapore, not too hot.

 

The breakfast sat in the gardens was wonderful, it’s just a shame we had places to go so couldn’t sit and enjoy it for long.

Our first day was spent at a cooking class learning how to cook classic Balinese dishes, it starts out a local market which is an amazing sight before we head back to the family home to show our skills.

I love the look on her face above, classic! Bad day at the market maybe.

It was interesting to see a Balinese home where we cooked, it really is a perfect life with a temple and lots of outdoor space. Only something that can be really enjoyed with the weather here.

The class was great and I enjoyed learning how to make satay, I always find it funny bad people are at cooking at these classes, sadly the worst were Singaporean, I think they eat out too much at the Hawker centres!

After the huge meal eating everything we had made we went to the Money Forest which was nicely a 2 minute walk from the hotel. As soon as we entered we got to see how crazy the monkeys can be as one stole Yann’s water from her hands. They are not scared of humans at all. If you put your hands into your pockets they come running towards you wanting whats inside.

I was hoping to get a great panoramic shot with the monkeys but they weren’t in the right place and moved around too much for my long exposure times but I did find this amazing bridge by the river. I had to wait ages for all the tourist to get out of the way as they kept taking pictures on the bridge.

Our second day we had arranged a downhill bike tour, and would you believe it was pretty much all down hill for 3 hoursother that a few small uphill at the end, which still people complained about. It was great to see what real Bali is like along the quiet back roads and we even got to try a spot of rice bashing in one of the fields, I took this as an opportunity to show up the other men and their pathetic attempts.

I wouldn’t want to live in the compound behind these trees, the spiders were as big as your hand!

I had arranged a tour of Bali for our third day with a local driver, Dewa Alit, which would end at our second hotel, the Pan Pacific Nirwana resort near the famous Tanoh Lot Temple on the west coast.

Our first stop was the beautiful Ceking rice terraces, I only wish I had more time to hang around for the perfect light in the afternoon but we had to be in Tanoh Lot for sunset.

Driving is quite slow through Bali as the roads are narrow and lots of traffic so we could only visit 3 places that day even though they weren’t too far apart. It took 1.5 hours to get to Lake Beratan only 35 miles away but seeing the temple was worth the journey. Again though not perfect light but an interesting and moody picture.

Motorcycle is the main choice of transport for locals as it’s cheap and quick. I have never seen so many on the roads but apparently this is nothing compared to Vietnam. I was even more impressed with what the managed to carry on the bikes.

Our last stop was the Jati Luwih rive fields, I wasn’t as impressed as the Ceking Terrace from the morning but i was a nice walk through them even though we got a little lost at one point. Yann got very scared when we saw a fresh snake skin along the way. I didn’t tell her it was fresh at the time.

We made it to Tanoh Lot just before sunset and whilst it was pretty I wasn’t as impressed with the temple, you could hardly see it up on the rock which made a sunset silhouette a rubbish shot, I didn’t have enough time to find a better spot in time. There was also hundreds of people around as I expected which limited my options even more.

It was now time for the real relaxing to begin, we had no plans for our last 2 days on the west coast and spent it it doing as little as possible as other than the temple there was much else to see nearby.We woke the next as the sun shone into the room and got up early to walk around Tanoh Lot again, it was surprisingly busy again due to it being low tide with tours from Java.

A few people asked to take a picture with me, at first I thought they wanted to take their picture, but no they wanted me in it as it seems they haven’t seen many white people, I found that out when one person walked away laughing saying “Sorry it’s casue you are so white.”. Nice.

I did find time between all the posing to get a shot of the arch nearby just before a surfer jumped off the rock, I wish I had been here for sunset last night.

We had breakfast on our balcony in the hotel room, I was really happy because I booked a deal without breakfast on hotelclub.com and thought we would have to pay a fortune but it turns out ordering room service is cheaper that going down to the buffet or booking the room with breakfast included. It’s just a shame the beef, pork and chicken sausages all tasted and looked the same.

We spent most of the day by the pool and enjoyed the water slide, ordering fresh fruit juices to add our duty free bought vodka to. I am always on the lookout for a picture though and left Yann to relax whist I took some shots.

We had a 2 hour massage and body wrap arranged in the afternoon in one of the hotel Bale that looks out to the ocean. It was certainly the best location for a massage I have ever had with the sea breeze, the massage was great too! This is a Bale if you didn’t know….

That was when I had the idea to arrange dinner to eat there too, even though it’s not something they normally do they arranged it for me to eat from the Pool Grill menu. I know the name doesn’t sound like a good restaurant buy my word the pork ribs were good. It was a perfect romantic setting for our last night in Bali as the sun set. I did run out to take one last picture though, it was just too perfect not to take! Sorry Yann. I could have slept out there all night it was so relaxing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Yann’s new role is the Financial Director here in Singapore which oversees the whole of the Asian market, this is good news for me because it means she goes on plenty of trips to the offices that I can tag along and see more of the world.

This would be a quick 3 day visit to Hong Kong, that Yann would be working late each day which means I could explore fully and take as many shots as I like. We both flew Cathay Pacific this time and one huge benefit was that since Yann was a gold BA member that counted with this airline as they are both part of the One World Alliance so we got to use the 1st class lounge and get priority baggage.

The Taxis here all look very old, but all amazingly run on clean LPG fuel, as far as I know Toyota still make them in this style.

It was nice weather in Hong Kong but sadly the pollution spoiled most of the view from the airport in the taxi. For more money than Manila this Novotel Hotel room was tiny and not as extravagant, but that’s what you get in Hong Kong.

It instantly made me feel like I was in an Asian New York, very busy and dirty with little green space. The first thing we did was jump on the trams that run across the Island, it’s a great way to see and photograph the city since the windows all open and they double deckers. I love that they use bamboo for scaffolding here.

 

It costs about 20p a trip and you pay on exit,  you need exact change which we didn’t have so when I waived a HK$20 bill in front of the driver he pointed to the slot, but I wasn’t going to put that much in so just got off and the driver looked astonished but like he didn’t care enough to do anything about it. You can also pay with the Octopus card so I must get one of those to make it easier.

As it was a sunday it was all the helpers day off here so the streets are full women sitting around having a good time, as they aren’t allowed to have relations with local men they would all look at me because foreigners are not off limits, apparently it’s heaven for single guys in the right areas. They seem to like to hang out outsider the expensive shops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a late lunch at a Michelin Star Dim Sum restaurant called Din Tai Fung, there is always a wait here but atleast you get to watch the Chefs make the food.

A visit to Hong Kong is not complete without going up the peak tram for the best view here, the visibility wasn’t ideal but it is Yann’s only chance to go up. The queue was long since sunset was near but after 45 minutes we were at the top. You can also use octopus cards here which would mean we could have jumped the queue a little. Whilst the view is good on the viewing platform it’s very crowded and I preferred walking 20 minutes along Lugard Road, not as high but a pretty walk with no people. The view is also better too.

The next day as Yann went to work I set out to explore with my backpack. The first thing I did was buy an octopus card with HK$300 on it, more than what I would need since trams are HK$2 and MRT HK$8.

I then went all the way across the island and back on the trams, it’s perfect for shooting because it’s so slow and high up, I ended up spending 4 hours on them. It even went down this busy market street.

For the afternoon I went to check out Hong Kong’s cheap camera shops in Mong Kok on the mainland so I ventured on the the MTR, the trains are so long here, possibly double the length of singapore. Other than that they look exactly the same and are of course very clean.

My friend Singe who has visited many times sent me a list of shops and malls to visit full of new and used cameras and all sorts of gadgets, I didn’t intend to spend any money but ended up buying 45 rolls of film, batteries, a memory card and other camera accessories.

Monk Kok has some crazy looking streets so I waited for the sun to set so I could shoot them with all the lights on, I found a high walkway to be able to take this shot.

I then went exploring at street level looking for a street with even more colourful signs, I came upon this shot below which just as I arrived the taxi parked up whilst the driver parked for dinner which gave me just enough time to set up and wait for the right moment for traffic to stop. Barley 2 minutes after I pressed the shutter to capture the moment the taxi was gone.

I love to try new food but the problem here is that not everyone speaks good English and so I found myself pointing at stuff that looked interesting on the street stalls and just trying it, thankfully nothing was too spicy and I got to try some great cheap local food, please don’t ask me what I ate though as I still do not know.

When it’s home time people love to queue here for a bus, crazy!

I love this street scene and I wanted to capture it on my panoramic camera but there isn’t enough going on to make an interesting composition in that format. It reminds me of Blade Runner.

Since the fog made visibility poor up at the peak I wanted to go back again early one morning and waited until my last day hoping it would clear, sadly I was out of luck because this fog was actually smog and I would be very lucky indeed to get a day without that this time of the year. When I woke it got even worse, it was raining. I headed up anyway in the hope of something moody that would produce a different shot to my usual cityscapes. At the top I couldn’t see anything, not a single building. I decided to wait in the hope that it would clear a bit and after an hour it did just as the rain began to fall on me. I waited for the moment when the buildings on the mainland were just revealed to press the shutter.

The tram taking you up to the peak goes up some very steep hills, the ride is so much fun I decided to do it 2 more times since it’s so cheap and I had too much money on my octopus card. I walked back down from the top so see if there was anywhere along the way I could shoot the city and the tram all in one shot and amazingly I was not disappointed.

It’s a nice walk down through the stations along the way and popular for those who want a good work out running up.

I was planning to go visit the huge Buddha that day but apparently on a cloudy day you can’t see it so I am going to save that for the next time as I am sure Yann will be back here again soon.

Yann, my girlfriend, is heading to Manila in the Philippines for work so I decided to tag along and check out a new city.

Manila isn’t on my to do list, and most people say to avoid this city and I can see why, it’s not a place you want to go jet lagged with lots of baggage as it’s so busy and dirty and hard to get around. Luckily I was not jet lagged and only had a back pack so I found the city fascinating, even though it is essentially a shit hole. It’s a shame as apparently once it was a great place to live.

I flew solo because as usual Yann was on an expensive airline with work, she would meet me later that evening. Upon landing we had to wait for 30 minutes on the plane waiting for a free gate, only to have to get on a bus, I’m not sure what happened to the gate. Getting through customs was fairly efficient but the airport is not pretty.

The airport has no public transport so you have to get a taxi for which they have put in place a set fair which would be around 800 Pesos to the centre. I had done my research so walked up to the departure level and jumped in a cab, something I read that wasn’t recommended for you first time in Manila, but what the hell. So i walked from taxi to taxi saying Meter until one of them agreed, it they don’t agree to the meter they will only rip you off. It was half price than the airport taxis on the meter and I got dropped at the Intramuros, the oldest district of Manilla, but coming from England the old spanish buildings didn’t interest me, what did was the people and the way they lived.

All through the streets locals would shout trying to sell me a ride on a horse and cart or a cycle tour.

What I was most interested in to photograph here was the Jeepneys, they are the cheap local transport and I just love how they are all customised. It became my main goal to get a good shot of them for the next few days standing in spots along the road where they would pass regularly, it was very hit and miss waiting for the right moments.

You can tell most people here are very poor, most of the city is a mess with pockets of shanty towns everywhere, which is why I thought it was fascinating to photograph because it’s a new experience for me. I didn’t get to wander freely like this  Nigeria.

As the sun set it was time to make my way to the hotel to meet Yann, I asked a passer by the directions to the MRT and he was kind enough to help me get a bus as he was going in that direction anyway, he even paid my fare which I didn’t expect especially since the fare was so cheap at 10 pence.  It was a very slow ride with the crazy traffic so I asked Sherwin many questions about Manila, from my reading up on Manila I didn’t expect to meet such a nice man on my first day.

I jumped off the bus at the Makati City which is the new and pretty area of Metro Manila, it felt like I was back in Singapore except for the security guards with guns throughout the park I walked through. Manila is very cheap which is great for any traveller, I ate dinner at a gourmet cafe at the cost of £3. Expensive when you can eat a good lunch for only £1. Sat in probably the safest park in Manila a young local lady walked up and sat next to me and started a conversation, I already knew where this would go especially when she said she wanted to buy me a drink. She could be one of two things, what they call an opportunist that sees my white self and thinks she can make some money, or a thief who planned to spike my drink with some friends steal my belongings, I almost wanted to play it out to see but declined and headed for the hotel. Yann’s flight also ended up being delayed into Manila, it’s starting to look like the airport isn’t very well organised.

The Oakwood Premier Hotel we stayed is one of the nicest I have been in, especially for £90 a night, it was a big one bedroom apartment, everywhere in Asia so far has had King size beds so it’s going to be hard if I ever have to go back to a queen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst Yann went to work I continued to explore the city, this time venturing onto the MRT. There is only 3 lines here and they don’t serve much of the city but it is cheap at about 15p. However this is a cash only system as none of the ticket machines work and the prepaid systems for each line are different, t really is a third world system. I had to wait 10 minutes in line just to buy a ticket, then a few more minutes to go through security where they glance in tour bag with a magic wooden stick. This terrible security makes me feel less safe. With most buildings you walk into here you get your bag checked or go through a metal detector, even the malls. The MRT is crowded and dirty but thankfully there is AC.

But atleast I was really getting to see Manila now even with all the public transport annoyances,

In the picture above on the right you can see a red building, this is a hotel chain called Sogo which stands for So clean So good, it is very cheap and apparently the rent rooms by the hour. I wonder if it’s as good as Motel 6 in the states?

Everywhere I walked I was the only tourist around and I got plenty of strange looks like they had never seen a white guy before, maybe they hadn’t in these parts because I was later told by locals they would never walk around the areas I had been to. These areas were the only ones I wasn’t hassled into spending money. I loved this street below as it has so much going on, whilst waiting for the right moment to take the shot kids were coming up to me and saying “give me money”. You can see one in the photo I took, he was trying to get in shot and ruin it but the bike distracted him for a moment.

Holy Week started on my 3rd day here which is a big holiday and meant the MRT was no longer running which meant I got to experience to bus again, on my own this time though. I just jumped on one heading in the right direction and jumped off when I could see on my Iphone map I was in an area I wanted to be. Smart-phones are a godsend for days like this, otherwise I would be lost. This bus had no AC so it was open on the sides.

I arrived near the coast and stumbled up on a market that had a walkway above it. The walkway was closed but I found a way up anyway as it looked like a great vantage point to take some photos of the life below. Every so often a mini jam would happen and I would take a shot. I ended up spending 2 hours there just watching life go by.

Yann has an old school friend here in Manila so we spent the weekend with them and they drove us out to see the Taal Volcano 100km south of the city. We set off at 5.30am since it was a 1 hour hike and not something you want to do in the midday heat. Getting to the volcano requires a boat ride across Taal Lake, the breeze was amazing.

The hike up followed a dirt track where horses also went and all the way up they would try to sell us a horse rife up the hill to make it easier, they literally followed us up behind hoping we would eventually give up.

It’s an incredible view at the top with the green water, I wanted to walk down to the bottom but I knew I would regret that with the steep hike back up, it’s just too damn hot even at 8.30am.

Thankfully at the top, as always there were stalls to sell sell you drinks and other rubbish but luckily it had some shade to cool off before heading back down.

In colour my cheeks are incredibly red in the picture below.

 

It was great being with local people because they knew where to go and what to eat, but that also meant I had to try Balut, a local delight you can only by on the street in the evening. Maybe that has something to do with needing to be drunk to want to eat them. They are basically fertilised duck eggs that are cooked once the chick inside has grown a little.

I thought I was going to throw up but it  was actually quite tasty, like a meaty version of an egg. Yummy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have jumped ship again! On Friday March 1st my girlfriend and I arrived in Singapore, she was promoted within her company and I thought it would be a great opportunity to see a new country and obviously photograph asia.

I know it’s taken a while to write this first post here but I have been very busy, now you may be wondering what I have been doing with no job but looking for an apartment became a full time job, well for 3 weeks anyway.

We landed at around 7pm which meant it was dark so I didn’t get to see anything of singapore just yet. As soon as I stepped off the plane I felt the instant sweat of the humidity here, although it had just been raining so this was a more pleasant version apparently. The airport here is very efficient and we didn’t have to queue long and was surprised that border control didn’t say a word to me, just stamped my passport and let me through. We had both brought 2 big suit cases with us, the rest of our belongings are getting shipped which includes my film scanner so sadly that means any pictures I take on film I won’t be able to show you until I get it, which means until then you will have to make do with snapshots taken on my digital camera.

For our first month Yann’s company had organised a serviced apartment for us near her work, this was perfect as it gave us plenty of time to find somewhere to live. The taxi ride took us near the Marina Bay so I got to get a great first view of the city at night. Amazing.

As soon as we arrived we unpacked all or our summer clothes and soon the nice clean apartment was in a mess, I would not be needing the jeans and jumper I left London in for a long time.

Once we had our shorts on we went for a long walk all the way to the Marina Bay, we really needed it after 14 hours on the plane and I had my first experience eating food at the very cheap Hawker centres here in singapore. You can’t complain about a good S$4 meal. Along the way I spotted the location for a great shot that shows off all of Singapore that I will be coming back to shoot one sunrise.

Our Apartment for the month is near the famous shopping area Orchard Road which is full of Malls, I can see why they like them so much here because of the heat, so we spent the saturday exploring them and I bought some Linen shirts, I quickly realised all my usual tops where not going to cut it here so I bought 5.

As monday came and Yann headed off to work it was time for me to do my job, find us a nice place to live. Singapore is known for being expensive when it comes to property, we have a budget of S$4000 so I wanted to explore all the options and areas to see what that could get us. We wanted a 2 bedroom place so all our friends that said they would be visiting would have somewhere to stay, and we also wanted to have a pool and a gym. We think this may be the only country we live in where we can really enjoy a pool so we may as well go for it all.

It works a little differently here to the UK when renting apartments, most people find an agent who then finds properties from other agents and they all share a commission which I have to pay for a 1 year lease or the landlord pays for a 2 year lease. We had some recommendations but after waiting for them to get back to me I decided to just do it myself and went about starting the search. www.propertyguru.com.sg seems to be the best site here so I started arranging appointments and soon had 6 in the first day and soon started compile a nice collection of agents business cards. I have done some research online and have been told to be careful of agents and landlords here, as we aren’t as protected as in the UK, apparently they will try to screw you out of your deposit, and I’m the guy who has always got his full deposit back.

All the property agents I met seemed to be happy that I am English, maybe because it means I have money or maybe they just think they can try to screw me, time will tell!

As with anyone moving somewhere new we didn’t know which area to live in so I looked at all sorts of properties all over. I thought since this is such a small island we could live by the beach, however it also needed to be convenient for Yann to go to work which the east coast here wasn’t. My idea of a 5 minute walk to the beach wasn’t going to happen.

The beach isn’t so great anyway, and since this is a huge port there are hundreds of ships all around.

I looked at all kinds of places, some brand new but tiny, some old and huge. One even had the kitchen outside as you can see below, this was an apartment that had been split in 2 and apparently the toilet was inside a wardrobe, for some reason I wasn’t allowed to see it. That also meant it didn’t have a proper entrance and I had to walk across water pipes to get in, it’s amazing what some people will try to sell you. I even looked at a place that had part of the kitchen in the hall way.

The landlords here don’t like the idea of you cooking inside and stinking up the place as many apartments didn’t have any cookers and would point to the microwave when I asked. The place below was advertised as heavy cooking allowed becasue the kitchen is enclosed by glass, this wasn’t standard the landlord had just fitted it.

I even looked a place with a Jacuzzi but it was old and ugly looking and didn’t work. I found myself saying “nice” sometimes when it was horrible, or finding other good things like “it’s spacious” to say. I even looked at some places way below our budget to see the options, once above a mall and damn is was grim in there.

The prize for the ugliest bathroom, possibly I’ve ever seen, goes to this apartment. I wonder what year this was cool.

It was tiring walking in the hot weather between all the viewings, I can see why most people engage an agent as they will drive you around and do all the work but any I met just didn’t show me what I was looking for, and this was a good way to see Singapore and also know the different areas and how easy it is to walk to them from the public transport.

Another feature of all modern developments here is a bomb shelter, pictured below is the doorway to one, all new apartments have to have them and it is a crazy waste of space in some of the tiny apartments I looked at. It does mean they all have lots of storage space as they are about 2×2 metres inside.

Amongst the bad I saw plenty of very nice places with great facilities, there was always something wrong though, whether it be no oven, tiny kitchens with no counter space, the 2nd bedroom too small to fit a double bed, construction work nearby as everywhere in Singapore seems to have it, no gym, too far for Yann to get to work, ugly area. I even found a complex with badminton courts, my dream come true since I love to play but the apartments there were very old and not worth the money.

This apartment had a cheap looking open wardrobe concept going on in the bedroom.

There is so much construction going on in Singapore with not system like in the UK that there is no guarantee that a new building won’t poop up anywhere, the view from an apartment below for example, the agent told me she was pretty sure nothing would happen in the next year, and that was only because it takes that long to put it in motion. I saw so many apartments with views ruined by newer taller buildings.

I’ve no idea how you could cook in this kitchen.

I even looked at an apartment in The Sail which is right next to Marina Bay with amazing facilities. 3 Pools, a water excersize area with gym equipment in the water, an amazing view from the common areas onto the bay. Sadly though the apartment had a view looking into another building and was a studio with only glass doors between the living area and the bedroom. It made me want to arrange viewings for expensive places though, maybe I’ll do that once my search is over and waste their time pretending to be a rich expat wanting to spend S$40’000 a week on rent and have them buy me lunch.

This was the best pool I saw on the roof of the building, it was also the longest so you can swim a proper lap.

We wanted to try and find something that was perfect. A good size, a nice area with places to walk around and go and eat, and good facilities, near to a nice park. Many areas I looked at where just lots of apartment locks around malls which is not our cup of tea, it’s a shame because we saw many nice apartments around the Novena area which is just like this. We soon settled on trying to find a place by the singapore river, it was central, pretty and I have always wanted to live on the riverside, something that would cost more in London. We found a complex called river place one weekend, it was right on the river with a resort feel to it, big pool and gym and the apartments were old enough to be big for the same money as elsewhere, but not old enough to look like crap. The first apartment we looked at was ok but now we had found the perfect spot we wanted to see all the options available in the complex, I had looked at over 60 apartments so far and not one was perfect, so it felt like we were at the last hurdle.

On the second weekend I arranged second viewings for my favourites for Yann to see hoping we could decide that weekend, we had a choice of 4 places in the complex. One was a 2 bed for S$4200, over our budget and un-furnished so lots of money to spend, the others all 1 bedrooms some with horrid furniture built in, some with noisy pool views that didn’t feel private. They were the best of all I had seen but we found it hard to decide between them which meant none of them were perfect. We had one last viewing of an apartment I arranged last minute and almost forgot about, and when we went to see it knew it was the place and took it straight away. It was ground floor with a direct river view, the largest of all the apartments in in the complex and the biggest kitchen too. We were very excited and got it for our budget price of S$4000 when they were asking S$4400. Supposedly the last tenant payed S$4200 but then I’m not sure if I believe these agents.

I’ll start with the view from the apartment, as it was one of the best I have seen.

And if the pool wasn’t cool enough, we also have 2 tennis courts. But when I think we are paying over £2000 a month we had better have tennis courts!

After 70 apartments I’m glad to have found home, I had seen it all in that time from Hello kitty stickers all over the flat to gaudy 1980s bathrooms but glad I saw so many as it means I know we have the right place. It was also interesting to get a picture of peoples lives here in Singapore and how messy people live. I must go tidy up now!

 

 

After  a fun week in Lake Tahoe it was time for the road trip to begin down the California coast all the way to San Diego. On the way though since it was so close I had to drive through Yosemite and get a shot of the giant sequoias there. Normally at this time of year there would be a lot of snow making accessibility terrible but this year there has hardly been any so it was nice walking around.

Bachelor and Three Graces, Yosemie

 

Starting just north of Santa Cruz I started exploring a beach were all the surfers like to go. They were too far away to get a descent shot of them but a bit of climbing on the rocks to the side led me to find this. I had to be very carefully as the rocks were so slippy it was easy to fall.

It was a long wait for the crashing wave to be big enough to make the shot worthwhile.

 

Santa Cruz reminded me of some of the dull coastal towns in England like blackpool, even though it has such a beautiful name I quickly drive through that city heading south.

Sadly there are lots of parts of the coast fenced off, wither for government purposes or for homes to be built hiding some of the beautiful landscape so I could get access but just peer from a distance.

Private Coast

 

I would stop at anything that looked interesting along the way, which meant most of the state beaches to have a look, which meant finding some little gems that hadn’t been on my list at the beginning of the trip. Pfeiffer beach was one of those with some big rocks jutting out of the beach with tunnels where the waves could come crashing through.

Tunnel Wave, Pfeiffer Beach

The next stop was definitely on my list, although at first I drove right past it only realizing after I needed to turn around to see something I had never seen before.

McWay falls is a waterfall that falls directly onto a beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and thankfully there is no access down to the beach so it remains un-touched, even though I would love to get down there myself and get a unique shot.

To get this I needed to wait for just the right moment when the water created the nice pattern on the beach as it washed beck into the sea for a 4 second exposure.

 

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

 

I had to stop at Sand Dollar beach just because of the name, and as I walked down the south side toward the interesting rocks this view hit me, the angle of the sun shining off the rocks was perfect and almost made it look like another planet. Finally I had been here at the perfect time.

Alien Coast, Sand Dollar Beach

Normally on these trips I have plenty of time to explore and come back to locations for the perfect light but on this trip I’m leaving it more to chance as I only have 2 and a half weeks to get to Vegas for the flight home so sadly no time to wait around for sunset.

 

Big Sur

It seems today is my lucky day, shortly before sunset I passed by this great pier, it seemed like it was placed in a very random place it wasn’t in a town and it was very quiet. It was perfect for a sunset and I wasn’t disappointed.

Sunset Pier, San Simeon

 

Seal Cove, La Jolla, San Diego

 

The next stop was San Diego which would be a great place to live woth it’s nice coast and parks,  I question why I didn’t come here more often when I was living in LA, except I’m sure the summer heat would be a big no for me.

There was a great spot in La Jolla where the Seals would come onto a beach, it was funny because there were other beaches but they seemed to prefer this little cove for some reason.

 

La Jolla Coast, San Diego

My last shot on the California coast was this, sadly 5 mintues before I took it there was a seal on the rock! It would have been a great shot.


	

Continuing on my journey from San Francisco was a week in Lake Tahoe, this part of the trip however involved some pleasure as well as photography spending the cloudy days on the slopes snowboarding.

The first sunny day I headed out to a waterfall in the area, Eagles Falls that I thought would involve some hiking in the snow down hill but luckily on arrival I found it not too far, hiking in the snow is no fun. I even had a small tumble to get this.

Falls with a View

 This shot was gone in a couple of minutes as once the sun came from behind the tree glare ruined the shot. It’s also a rare occasion when I find another photographer getting up as early as me but today I met Freddy Oropeza at the same spot, luckily however he wasn’t looking to get the same shot as me.

Once this shot was in the bag at 6.30am(or at least I hoped it was, you never know when shooting film, I’ve messed up enough rolls) I drove around the entire 72mile circumference of the lake looking for other shot opportunities. I stopped at a place nicknamed Bonzai Rock which looked interesting however I didn’t shoot that particular rock, I was more interested in another nearby view. The water was perfectly illuminated but the angle of the sun and the water calm enough to take a long exposure and get the lake perfectly smooth and calm.

 Lake of Serenity

On another day I headed back to the Bonzai rock area at sunset hoping to get shot above with some nice colourful clouds, but this was completely the wrong angle so I switched at the last minute. There is some nice colour but the rocks just aren’t interesting enough.

Bonzai Rock, Lake Tahoe

 

 

 

In February I began a 1 month road trip starting in San Francisco and ending in Las Vegas with various amazing spots along the way.

As soon as I Landed in San Francisco and arrived at my hotel around the corner I found a huge fire truck parked up and couldn’t resist a shot, it had just been freshly cleaned.

Fire Truck, San Francisco

I decided to try a new style on this trip shooting hand held black & white photos using my 617 camera, almost like snap shots, so any black & white photos you see later in this trip will most likely be taken this way.

San Francisco instantly struck me as a nice charming city as soon as I arrived, a more relaxed version of new york, it almost felt quiet. IT seemed like the best American city I had visited so far and somewhere I would love to live for it’s weather and closeness to so many amazing places like Yosemite National Park yo mention just one.

Downtown San Francisco

A must have shot whilst here was of the whole city to ad to my collection, so I woke at 5am the first morning and headed across the Bay Bridge, after a bit of exploring  I found a great spot and waited for the sun to rise.

San Francisco and the Bay Bridge

I couldn’t miss out on visiting the famous Alcatraz Prison which ended up being a great afternoon with a ferry ride to and from the island.

Alcatraz Island

Walking around the prison you can listen to the many great stories and attempted break outs giving you a great fell for how the prison operated, and also what it would be like to be in prison.

Alcatraz Cells

 

Alcatraz Block

 

The Golden Gate Bridge was another must see, sadly the evening I planned to take a picture was very overcast so I didn’t get a nice sunset this time, fortunately I plan to come back to San Francisco another time so I wasn’t worried about this.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Hello and Happy New Year!

Over the holidays I took a short trip to Lanzarote, one of the beautiful Canary Islands to explore some Volcanoes and I even hiked into the middle of 2. There was some great scenery and I got these 3 shots along the way, but thankfully not early rises, it was a holiday after all!
It’s funny how it almost feels as though I never left England the amount of english accents I heard.

Volcanic Landscape, The Canary Islands

 

Playa de Famara, The Canary Islands

 

Los Hervideros, The Canary Islands

3 months after arriving home I have been through all the photos I took on the 7 month trip and have selected my best from the trip.
There are 29 pictures, which at a trip cost of £15000 means each image cost £500. Obviously I took more than 29 shots, but would you want to put those on your wall?

Here they are in date order –

Downtown Vancouver, Canada 
Douglas Fir Trees, Capilano Woods Canada 
Whistler Coastal Mountains, Canada 
Whistler Peak, Canada 
Washington State Field, USA 
Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, USA 
Geyser Sunset, Yellowstone National Park, USA 
Waking the Byson, Yellowstone National Park, USA 
Doublet pool, Yellowstone National Park 
The Devils Tower, USA 
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA 
Chicago, USA 
New York Brooklyn Bridge, USA 
Washington Monument, USA 
Jefferson memorial, Washington DC, USA 
A night in Toronto, Canada 
A Day in Toronto, Canada 
Up, Canada 
Mount  Rundle, Banff Nation Park, Canada 
Waterfowl Lake, Banff National Park 
Jasper National Park 
Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Canada 
Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park 
Sunshine, Olympic National Park 
Sol Duc Creek, Olympic National Park 
Ruby beach, Olympic National Park 
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park 
Desolation Sound, British Columbia, Canada 
Shore Life, Pacific Rim National Park, Canada