Sunday, 25 January 2015

Monument Valley

I've worked out the problem with travel blogging. We've only been at it for a few weeks, plus we're desperately behind on our posts so I've only really done a week's worth of travel and I'm already running out of superlatives to describe the things that I've seen. Plus, the internet generation throws around too many of the things anyway - not everything can LITERALLY be the MOST AMAZING thing you've ever seen. It just can't. Not even if the dictionary now thinks that literally can mean the opposite of literally (but don't get me started). The alternative is to be lukewarm about everything and say it was 'nice' and nobody wants to read that. I have total new found respect for really good travel writers. Maybe you should go and read something by one of them....

Monday, 19 January 2015

Photo Tips: Horseshoe Bend + photos

Horseshoe Bend is a stunning location on the Colorado River located just outside Page, about a 10 minute drive to the car park and then a 20-30 minute walk over the hill to get to the viewing area on the edge of the cliff/canyon.  Make sure you are there well before sunset and bring warm clothes and a torch so you can stay till well after too as there are many great shots.

View from the top of the hill on the walk in.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Quick Tips: Hire Cars

Picking a hire car company was a challenge, trying to figure out a reputable company that wasn't crazy expensive and met a few key things such as:
-Sufficient milage
-Ability to go into Canada
-Sufficient insurance coverage (since we don't have a US credit card or existing US insurance)

Included all of those things into the decision I picked Alamo for our LA car hire although there were some complaints on the reviews they seemed fairly reputable and were cheaper than most.

Our first dusting of snow, that shut down Arizona.
Pick up was interesting, there was a huge turn over of cars arriving and leaving and people just kept rolling in.  Unfortunately for use there was a distinct lack of small SUV's (for the number that had booked them) and the guy in the yard was trying to convince people into different cars, premium's etc.  We said we would prefer an SUV got given a medium SUV however after after a quick check under the car we found out it wasn't 4wd so we requested another.  They said they couldn't guarantee it but we fairly quickly ended up with an AWD Dodge Journey which served us well.  If you are thinking of going to areas with a potential for snow then I would definitely recommend getting a 4wd, particularly since most car hire companies I looked at would not allow you to fit chains.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a little canyon just outside Page, Arizona. Page seems to be a town that exists solely because there is a whole bunch of really amazing stuff within spitting distance. That’s actually not the case, Page was founded because they were building a dam and needed a place to house the workers, so they bought the land from the local Navajo people, but there are so many beautiful things around here – Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell as well as Antelope Canyon – we could easily have stayed longer.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon. I say that like I know what it means, right? Well, as far as I can tell, it means a super narrow, winding canyon where if you get distracted for a second, say, checking the photos on your camera, you are most likely to end up walking face first into a rock formation. At certain times of year, Antelope Canyon gets these light shafts down through the canyon. Photos of the canyon with these shafts of light are making it onto the internet and into travel books. We were not there at that time of year, so if you want to see those photos, you’re going to have to Google it, but it really didn’t matter, as you will see when you see the photos. As long as you have some light coming down into the canyon, it’s all good.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Photo Tips: Grand Canyon

I'd heard various things about the Grand Canyon being a bit overrate and not worth spending a lot of time at however we loved it and one night was definitely not enough.  This was partly due to our adventures in getting there but I would recommend two nights and aiming not to arrive late and leave early on your travel days either side.  Obviously we were there in winter so some of these tips may not apply to other seasons and one visit for one night hardly makes me an expert but I hope these are of use to someone...

View points

Sunrise at Maricopa Point looking west.
Typically the best view points for the Grand Canyon are the ones the let you look along the valley the most.  We shot sunrise at Maricopa Point because I forgot the map and were running a bit late, but we later visited Hopi Point which allows better shots along and into the valley (in line with the sunlight) however it would have been busier too.  Note that the view points to the west of the village are only open to public vehicles in winter, at other times you have to take the shuttle to get to these locations.  While we were there they were well covered in packed snow but were very drivable.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Photography Couple

Common the world over, the photography couple can be seen in particular proliferation around sights of great beauty or cultural significance. As with many creatures in the wild, the male of the species usually has the most impressive display. He is often equipped with a complicated looking backpack featuring many different compartments and straps and will always be seen with a large, expensive camera body and several accompanying lenses. In most, but not all, cases, the male will also carry a tripod with which to mark its territory. His call is rarely heard, though if someone happens to walk through his shot, his grunts can become aggressive, especially if that person is in possession of a selfie stick.

The Grand... Canyon!

View from Ooh Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail.

I've travelled a bit. I've seen a few of the things that regularly make it onto those Seven Wonders of the World lists - like Victoria Falls, the Great Barrier Reef and the Taj Mahal. Plus a few that occasionally make it onto those lists - like Halong Bay and Angkor Wat. I know this is utterly shameless travel name dropping but I do have a point!

Before I saw any of these things (and the Taj Mahal was the first one I saw), I always kind of thought those lists were a bit overwrought. You know the feeling - someone talks something up so much that the reality is inevitably a let down. Let me tell you, I've been wrong about that every single time. The Taj blew my mind. The Great Barrier Reef is incredible (although get there fast I reckon, in the five years between my two visits it's gone downhill significantly). And so on and so on.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Grand.... Traffic Jam?

Imagine all those movies that you’ve seen that have road trips – not the gross-out comedy type, the meaningful driving-as-self-discovery montage type. Got it?

An essential Hollywood road trip montage must have:
  • Driver and passenger singing along to classic rock
  • Someone with their arm out the window catching the air currents with their hand
  • The long, straight road stretched out ahead as the sunlight plays on the buttes and mesas of the passing landscape
  • Ridiculously attractive people gazing pensively out the window, probably filmed from an angle that allows us to see them in the wing mirror
  • All set to a soundtrack of thoughtful, romantic, just slightly edgy music.

Packing - For Photography

Hi, my name is Will and I'm a cameraholic.  But more seriously, I love photography and taking photos however packing (and carrying) camera gear can be a real pain in the neck (or back).  Decision about what to take, how to pack it, what to pack it in tend to drive me mad but I thought I'd write a bit about my decision process and some cool gear incase it helps you out.

Define some parameters

Where are you going and what will you be shooting?

I'm about to do a bit of an around the world trip which will involve lots of landscape and wildlife photography followed by more city touring.  I would be doing lots of walking both city and trail and will want my camera with me.  [Regions: US, Canada, Southern Africa, Europe, UK]


Selfie from Santa Monica (after a long haul flight).
Hello wide world of interwebs.

We are Jacq and Will. A little while ago, we came up with a vague plan. It grew out of the idea of a (Southern hemisphere) summer holiday to take photos in various national parks in Western USA. Then we thought – what if we just keep going? So we have both taken 6 months off from our regular employment (primary teacher and engineer) to wander around and see what there is to see.

When asked the question, ‘Where are you going?’ the easiest answer has been, ‘Everywhere!’ but that’s not terribly instructive or even terribly accurate so more specifically… we will start off by spending about 5 weeks in Western USA, concentrating on national parks and other wild and interesting places. Then we fly to Toronto, head east to the Canadian coast at Halifax, then down the coast to New York. From there we fly into Africa for three weeks of safari, ending in Johannesburg. Then we fly into Munich. That’s at the end of March and we don’t have any commitments from there until the beginning of June when we meet up with Jacq’s dad for a three week coast-to-coast walk in England. The plan for that time is to explore Europe and the UK.

We’ll be blogging as we go. Between us we cover a range of interests. Will is, among other things, into photography, particularly wildlife and landscapes, and food. Jacq, reading, writing, history, art and craft. We’ll be blogging any travel tips we think are useful, but mostly just general musings on our experiences. This blog is chiefly for friends and family to keep track of us, but of course everyone is welcome!