My Personal Journey:
I am eternally grateful for the most amazing year of photo tours to date. Its been 20 years since I started my photography business and 10 years since I started my photo tours. My journey has lead me to this very happy place. They say your job is an accumulation of all your work and life experiences. At 53 years of age I can vouch for that theory. Starting in the hotel industry in Sydney, teaching English in Tokyo, Japanese Tour guiding back in Sydney and finally being a photographer after completing my diploma in 2001. Coming full circle this job is definitely a combination of all my past jobs into one action packed business.
Melbourne in January
Japan in April
This year has taken me to 10 destinations: Melbourne, Japan (Winter, Spring, Autumn), Brisbane, Spain (North & South), Denmark & The Faroe Islands (Summer), Thailand (Celebrated 25 years of marriage) The Philippines and Perth. Now back home in Sydney for a few weeks, 2019 is shaping up to be another busy and exciting year ahead.
Lessons Learnt in 2018
Japan in February
Customers Can be Friends: I have always been taught to keep a distance from my customers. It might be advisable in some other types of business but not mine. In a world full of distractions and shallow social network connections I could not disagree more. I never take a customer I don’t know. Every customer who has an equally passionate need to connect with the beautiful world around us has become my friend. My main point of difference to all other photo tours is that I mentor all my customers for life whether they come back on another tour or not. I have an invested interest in helping them grow as a photographer. They value and trust my opinion but most importantly I need to understand the journey they are trying to develop. This journey can be complex and very personal. All my customers shoot and process differently. Each small group (2-6 max) photo tour needs to be very clear about their expectations from start to finish. Sometimes we spend many hours clarifying details of the trip. Managing expectations is paramount in the success of a photo tour. Nothing is ever perfect so with an open and honest dialogue in place there is always room for improvement.
Japan in November
Northern Spain in September
Travelling lighter: has to be the biggest change in my photo kit and philosophy on travel photography. Being a Canon shooter for most of my life and still with a pelican case full of L-Series lenses I have to admit they have not been used too much since September this year. I used to travel with 20kg in check in luggage and 10 kg in hand carry. Now I can happily announce after some travel testing that I have made the switch to a mirror less camera Fujifilm XT3. Having used a Canon 5D Mark III for many years I was well over due for an upgrade to a newer model. For many years I also had a Fujifilm XPRO 1 but had not used it much at all. After much deliberation I took the plunge and only took this camera to Spain with two prime lenses. A 50mm and 21mm lens equivalent in full frame terms. Wow, what a liberating experience it was.
Southern Spain in May
Minimalism: The less is more approach really works. Rolled my lightweight clothes like an army soldier, packed more in the backpack for ‘YES’ a total 10kg (carbon fibre tripod included). Unbelievable but possible. Hand carry with a Macbook pro 13 inch laptop totalled an incredible 5kg with my camera and 2 lenses. Most trips have served me well with just these two lenses. Yes I know there will be some moments when I wished I had a long zoom lens. Yes I can also hear some of you readers wondering why I don’t simply take one zoom lens (i.e. 24-70mm)? Short answer, “ I Love Primes” Primes force me to zoom with my feet and keep a very consistent narrative in its perspective. For most of my landscapes I use the 21mm. For most other travel photography genres (Street Portraits, Architecture, Food, Nature and Close Up) I use the 50mm lens. The lenses are so light I can put them in my jacket pocket and change them quickly. In October I purchased the Fujifilm XT3. The quality has not lessened and crop sensors are fine. I still get enough pixels to print very very large. 4K video option and less noticed by bag snatchers and street portraits without permission. Those long mountain hikes are a hell of a lot easier too.
2019 Photo Tours
In 2019 my Japan tours (6 max) will sometimes be together with my Japanese wife who will assist with the finer details. We even have a private couples tour coming up in Spring (Fully Booked) to assist partners that don’t have an interest in photography and still keep a balanced itinerary for photographers as well. We have developed many new itineraries for repeat travellers to Japan. Tourist Pollution has increased dramatically this year and will continue to grow with the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. We have searched and developed for new locations with less tourists. The new and exciting itineraries can be seen on my site. They are equally as enchanting to photograph with prime dates chosen. The best months to travel are Feb, March, April, Oct, Nov.
Philippines in February
Aside from Japan, I also have a love for my old home the Philippines and Spanish Heritage. Despite the negative press about President Duterte and his Dutertards, the Filipinos and all the pristine places I visit are safe, sublime and stupendous. A mix of heart warming street portraits and serene landscapes solidifies the tourism campaign slogan “ It’s more fun in the Philippines” Being fluent in Tagalog and having spent the first 15 years of my life in Manila, I still have a deep connection with lots of friends and family. Let me show you a very different perspective that will keep you coming back for years to come.
Spain is so diverse that I had to put together two itineraries. One for the South (Andalusia) and one for the North. The Southern Spain trip in late May is very time specific to catch some festivals for a very authentic cultural experience. I particularly enjoy travelling in time to the Romantic Ronda that will take place this year between May 23 and 27. There will be a re-enactment of the Napoleonic battles and a parade of over 500 people from 50 surrounding villages in their best costumes.
Northern Spain in September
Southern Spain in May
In September in Northern Spain we explore the hidden mountain and fishing villages of Asturias Province. The food is to die for. Especially in the Basque country in the town of San Sebastian which still boasts the most Michelin Starred restaurants in one place than any other European City. Another highlight about Northern Spain is the mix of rustic seascapes and modern architecture like Bilbao’s Guggenheim and Aviles Niemeyer Cultural Centre. Most of my itineraries are a balance of not too much driving and just enough time to relax in each location. Live like a local and shoot like pro. At night daily edits with glass of Tempranillo red and Jamon Serrano with Manchego cheese are mandatory rituals. Oh yes, you will also need to get used to big late lunches, the occasional siesta and late light dinners.
Copenhagen in June
While in Europe last May I had to take advantage of my not so close proximity and more curiosity to visit Copenhagen. There I spent time with my cousin and friends who showed me why Danish are one of the happiest in the world when it comes to lifestyle. A city made in bicycle heaven and an environment pristine like a princess. Smart people with smart ideas that all work. My cousin picked me up in an electric car with charges stations dotted all over the country. Solar panels on her 200 year old thatched roof house and a vegetable garden to keep any vegan family fed for years ahead. The whole Danish experience screams other nations “Why aren’t we following their system of social democracy?” Students are paid to go to University. While in Denmark I also had another excuse to visit one of it’s sovereignties.
The Faroe Islands is a self-governing archipelago, part of the Kingdom of Denmark. It comprises 18 rocky, volcanic islands between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean, connected by road tunnels, ferries, causeways and bridges. Hikers and bird-watchers are drawn to the islands’ mountains, valleys and grassy heathland, and steep coastal cliffs that harbour thousands of seabirds. This place has been on my bucket list for many years. Similar Landscapes to Iceland at half the distance from mainland Europe and a tenth the intake of tourists. Accompanied by my daughter we scouted the islands for 5 days to make what is now a new Photo tour.
Faroe Islands in June
Here is a quick video she made for me to show some highlights of this very isolated set of islands. Despite its remoteness from Europe it’s infrastructure and people are very well connected. With 5G network in a remote village of 20 houses I downloaded a whole album on a spotify in a minute. Another interesting fact is it’s jails are nearly empty with an extremely low crime rate. It’s declining 50K population has been marginally helped by a minority group of over 500 Filipina and Thai house wives. They have assimilated wonderfully into this very contrasted clash of cultures and different customs. Have a look at my ten day itinerary including 2 nights in Copenhagen.
Tasmania in May
Tasmania is another place I have had a very long love affair with and am looking forward to going back in May. One particular spot I think is still really unique and not frequented by bus loads of tourists is Arthur’s Lake with it’s drowned forest. An anglers paradise for trout. The dead trees in the lake always look eerie with a long exposure and a 10 stop filter.
Finally the last little announcement is to let you know that Perth City is launching a new Photo Tour in January with the same Photo walks available in all 5 cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle. I developed these photo walks 10 years ago with the idea of helping local photographers. Also to create a community of passionate visual story tellers who have the travel bug like you and I. Another new photo walk which has become the most popular to date is my smartphone photo tour. How many people can you name that are in denial about being photographers? Yet they spend hours shooting with their mobile phones and more hours editing and posting their best shots on social networks like instagram to name a few. Also want to welcome 4 new photo tutors as part of our community. Chris Jones in Sydney, Peter Gibney in Melbourne, Sofia Calado in Adelaide and Andrew Clarke in Perth.
Tasmania In May
In summary I would have to say again don’t forget to slow down and appreciate the people you love and the places you visit or live. Photography is just a vehicle or an excuse to express your visual voice and share with friends and family. Don’t let the media get you down it’s all just hype. The world really is a beautiful place. Keep smiling and shooting. Keep in touch with some new and exciting micro adventures planned for 2019 with 2 night stays in and around your city. Travel really is the best medicine.
Hugs to All,
Japan in Spring