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Welcome

Welcome, my name is Mike, I’m a freelance photographer and I’ve been travelling a lot recently which gave me the idea of starting my own travel and photography blog. It all started when I moved to Italy back in 2014, and since living here it has opened up my eyes to a whole different lifestyle than in the UK. I have also realised how easy it is to travel, especially around Europe, and how cheap it can be too. I had always been held back by the thought of money, and the whole concept of booking flights, hotels, how I would get around, and in particular, the uncertainty of it all. For me, not knowing what to expect, what I needed to do, being somewhere and not knowing how things worked was a daunting thing. I always liked to know exactly what was going on, at what time, etc. But as I started to travel more, I learned to let go of this mentality, I learned to embrace the uncertainty, to grasp a sense of adventure, to feel free. Unless you do this, you cannot truly enjoy travelling, because you are always restricting yourself.

During my time in Italy I finally bought myself a DSLR camera (Digital single lense reflex). I had always been attracted to photography and creating beautiful images, but again money held me back from buying myself a decent camera and trying it out.

I  bought my first camera on a payment plan which made it a whole lot more affordable; it was a Nikon D3300 with a 18-55mm kit lens. I had read online on various sites about good beginner DSLRs and read reviews before I decided to buy this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was very easy to use, had all the features I needed, and the quality of the images was great. After a while, I found that I was starting to take photography a lot more seriously and upgraded to a D7100, which is the camera I currently use.

Since, my passion for travel and photography caught fire and now I know that I have the world at my fingertips, it is the perfect time to start this blog. I will take you through my journey of travel and photography, give you an insight to places from my point of view, and hopefully give you useful travel and photography tips through my own learning and experiences. Whether you are looking for inspiration, advice or just want to read about the world from a different point of view, you’ve come to the right place.

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Dorset, UK

Along the southern coastline of England lies the beautiful Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Whether you come here for hiking, photography, camping or a few days away by the sea, you will not be disappointed with what Dorset has to offer.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the beauty you have at your own doorstep, and we often overlook exploring our own country, and because we think we can do it anytime, the idea of travelling abroad is more appealing, but the south coast of Dorset is up there with some of the best landscape I’ve seen.

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Durdle Door

I won’t lie to you, the main reason I came to Dorset was for my friends’ wedding, but I took the opportunity to stay a couple of days more to explore a region of the UK that I hadn’t previously been to.

As I do with any trip, I look around on Google Maps to check out any potential landmarks, photo spots or areas worth visiting. My friend recommended a few places to me, two of which were Durdle Door and Corfe Castle. I instantly recognised the two spots from a photographer I follow on 500px and after seeing the potential these two places had for photography, my heart was set. Using an app called TPE (The Photographers Ephemeris) I checked out the sunrise and sunset direction for both locations to determine which times to shoot for each, and chose to shoot Durdle Door at sunset and Corfe Castle at sunrise.

Lulworth Cove

To get to Durdle door I parked up at a car park between Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door itself. I had some time before the sun went down, so I checked out Lulworth Cove first.

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After taking a few snaps of the cove I stopped to enjoy a fresh crab sandwich and buy a couple of postcards before heading towards Durdle Door. The walk from the car park is around 1.5 miles and you have to walk up quite a steep hill, but once at the top of that hill the views are incredible in every direction.

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The trail goes along the coast for some way, so if you’re a keen hiker, it would be an amazing walk. In fact, the South West Coast path covers 95 miles of the Jurassic Coast from Old Harry Rocks to Exmouth. You can find out more information about this route and others here.

Durdle Door

I reached Durdle Door just in time for the sunset, and the conditions were perfect. I moved around a few place looking for the best composition, and I finally settled with the composition you can see in the picture below. As the sun dipped behind the cliffs the sky flourished with orange, pink, purple and blue. It was beautiful.

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Durdle Door at sunset (18mm / ƒ16 / 1s / ISO 100)

I sat in my spot taking another exposure every couple of minutes, capturing every change in light and colour, in fear of missing the best moment. Each capture was just as good as the next in its own way, but the one above was my favourite. Although everything was perfect, my only wish was for a wide angle lens, so that I could get more of the landscape into frame.

Corfe Castle

The next day I was up at 4.30AM to make sure I arrived at Corfe Castle in time for the sunrise. I had already scouted my spot the day before so I knew exactly where to set up. The spot I chose was on a hill that looks over the castle, it has a public footpath leading to it, and you can see around for miles. I wanted the shapes of the castle to stand out clearly on the horizon, so I chose to set up a little further down the hill, there there were some bushes which made for good foreground, and using the rule of thirds composed the shot so I had the horizon along the top third with the castle at one cross section, and the small building in the opposite cross section to balance the composition. All I had to do then was wait for the sun to rise, again taking exposures every few minutes to capture each change in light and colour. To capture the warmer, orange glow you see in the picture below, I set the white balance to manual, and adjusted to about 8000K.

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Corfe Castle at sunrise (18mm / f16 / 1/50 secs / ISO 100)

On the way back, the low level of the sun created some great shadows on the surrounding fields, so I stopped to capture the image below, again using the rule of thirds with the castle and the gate as focal points.

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I loved the way the light created shadows in this shot, and the sun streaks through the trees from the mist (18mm / f8 / 1/200 secs / ISO 100)

Christchurch

As I mentioned before, I came to Dorset for a wedding, which took place in Christchurch. This is a lovely picturesque town not far away from Bournemouth, and it gives you a feel of the ‘real’ England; lovely stone houses with thatched roofs, castle ruins and Gothic churches. Not to mention the lovely countryside surroundings.

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I had a wander around Christchurch the day before the wedding, and I was really charmed by it; for a small place it had a lot of scenery to offer.

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There is a walk along the river, which is particularly pretty in spring as the trees are flourished with pink blossom. There are some castle ruins along the way too.

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Christchurch Castle

Hengistbury Head

The owner of the B&B I stayed in recommended this place to me. The wedding was the night before, so with a sore head I left Christchurch and made my way to the coast.

Hengistbury head is just ten minutes drive from Christchurch, and overlooks the harbour, where you will find colourful beach huts, some worth 6 figure sums. There is big car park where you can leave the car and take a walk along the stony beach, or walk up the hill of Hengistbury Head for great views of the harbour and surrounding beaches. At the end of the hill you can head down to the sandy beach on the harbour for a closer look of those expensive beach huts.

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There we have it, my short stay in Dorset summed up in a few pictures and words. This county has so much to offer, and so much I didn’t see (including the famous Cerne Abbas Giant, which is basically a huge man carved into the chalk hills with a very noticeable erection). I can definitely see myself coming back here in the future, it’s just such a beautiful part of England.

Thanks for reading, catch you in my next post.

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Lago Di Sorapis

Somewhere in the Italian Dolomites awaits a beautiful lake like no other. At the end of a two hour hike through the stunning mountainous landscape you will find Lago Di Sorapis; a lake with unbeleivable colour.

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Yes, the water really is that colour; no Photoshop here. Why is it that colour? A very simple explanation actually, it’s due to the limestone which lines the bed of the lake, giving it the stunning blue colour and it’s milky appearance. Beautiful isn’t it?

Tempted to go for a dip? Be warned, the water is icy cold. You are about 2000m high in the mountains afterall. Which brings me on to the next part of this article – getting there.

Getting there

Sorapis is not accessible by road, it’s roughly a two hour hike along trail 215 which you can find here:

It’s along SR48 delle Dolomiti, not far from Cortina d’Ampezzo, with space along the road to park, but on busy days it may be difficult to find space.

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This is the start of the trail towards Sorapis, also sign-posted as Tre Croce.

 

The Hike

As I said before, you are in the mountains so pack some warmer clothes and waterproofs, even in the summer, as it can get a little chilly, and if it rains (like it did for us) it can get very cold! We didn’t quite realise how high up in the mountains this place was, and foolishly forgot to check the weather. It was only when it started to rain did I check the weather and discovered that thunderstorms were forecast all day, and coming from Ferrara in Italy at the beginning of June where the temperature was about 32C, we were dressed in shorts and t-shirts.* We were about 30 minutes into the hike at this point, and we had planned to come here months ago, so we weren’t going to turn back now, besides the rain wasn’t too bad at this point. Stubborn and determined to reach our destination we carried on.

*Without the rain, shorts and t-shirts would have been fine, as it was cool but perfect hiking temperature.

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As I said before the hike itself takes about two hours depending on how fast you walk (it’s about 5km each way) with some tricky parts along the way, such as narrow paths and steep drops, but there are guide ropes to hold on to. I would also recommend wearing hiking boots as it can be a little slippery in places. There are also parts of the trail which have metal stairways built into the steeper parts of the trail. If you have a fear of heights I would take these factors into consideration. It was this reason that I decided not to bring my dog, because as we discovered in Bled, he does have a fear of heights. If you are unsure, you can actually walk along the trail ‘virtually’ using google maps, and view the entire trail in 360 degrees.

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The views along the way are spectacular

The rain eased off about half way, but it was only a tease, as no more than 20 minutes later we began to hear rumbles of thunder and rain began to fall again. The clouds behind us didn’t look very friendly and they were heading our way. We made a quick assessment and decided that whether we carried on or turned back we would still get caught in it. We knew there was a hostel near the lake, and we were already past half way, it made no sense for us to turn back, miss out on seeing the lake and get wet either way so we pressed on again, but picked up the pace a little.

The rain grew heavier but our destination grew closer; we passed some other hikers on their way back who said it was only another 15 minutes until the lake. With light at the end of the tunnel our spirits lifted and we marched on.

Only ten minutes later the lake revealed itself to us and what a sight it was. Cold and wet, we had made it. Relief, joy and awe struck us; it truly is a beautiful place. Unfortunately because of the rain, we couldn’t really spend long here and enjoy it as much as we would have liked, so we quickly took some snaps, dipped our hands into the water, and dashed to find shelter at the nearby hostel as thunder rumbled over head and the heavens opened, pelting us with hail.

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Fortunately we weren’t alone and managed to get someone to take this picture of us.

With luck never in our favour, the hostel was closed, but we weren’t alone; other hikers were trying to take shelter by the side of the building. It wasn’t ideal but it kept us out of the direct rainfall. Why it was closed on a Friday in June I don’t know, but there would have been some very grateful hikers that day if it was!

Luckily, the rain passed and with the day growing late, we took our chance and headed back along the trail. The rain held off the whole way and we made it back to the car in around an hour and a half.

Lessons learned: Check weather, and bring appropriate clothing!

The trip hike to Sorapis was actually part of a two day trip we had planned, and our next stop was a hotel near the beautiful Lago Di Braies only 40 minutes away, which was a blessing for us, being tired, cold and wet. Needless to say the hot shower was bliss!

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Brisighella, Italy

 Somewhere in the hills between Bologna and San Marino, sits a vintage little town called Brisighella. This beautiful medieval village is small, but the scenery surrounding it is fantastic. dsc_2908-3

Getting There

From Bologna it’s roughly an hours drive along two main roads, the SS 9 (accessible from the E 45 Autostrada) and then the SP 302.

You can get there by train by heading to Faenza station and changing there for Brisighella.

Accommodation

We stayed in a beautiful family run hotel called Albergo Ristorante La Rocca. It is right at the heart of the town, with its own mini-spa and restaurant (the food is delicious), roof terrace with an all-round view of Brisighella and the clock tower, and the owners and staff are very friendly; so much so, the lady-owner personally came out to say farewell and wish us a safe journey home. We even received our own breakfast table full of various biscuits, pastries, meats, cheeses and cereals; although this was probably because we came on a Thursday before Christmas, and there weren’t many other guests. All of this cost me €85 for the night.

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Things to do and see

Although Brisighella is a small place, there are several things to see while you are here.

The Clock Tower

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Originally built using chalk rock, the tower was completely rebuilt in 1850, including a 6 hour clock . Different.

The Castle

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From the castle there is a road (more of a track) that you can walk along and it will take you to the clock tower, with a view of both structures along the way.

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Via Del Borgo

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Nicknamed ‘Donkeys Alley’ because it was mainly inhabited by carters who used the alley to transport Gypsum from the local mine using their Donkeys.

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Final Word

For a small town, there are many other things to do and see here, including caving in the nearby national park, wine tours, an open-air geological site, and the Madonna Del Monticino Sanctuary are just some examples. It’s a great place well worth a visit.

Gallery

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Still Life Food Project

 At the beginning of January my friend Don sent me a photography challenge- ’52 Weeks of photo inspiration’, so I decided to give it a go. It is a great idea, as not only does it motivate you to use your camera more, it also forces you to think creatively, as it is all based on your own interpretation of the subject. 52weeks

 I do not have a big budget, nor do I have my own studio, so sometimes I have to get a little creative, and make use of what I have available.

I read a tutorial online about creating sunlight in the studio using a soft box and a gold reflector, none of which I have, but what drew me to the article was the subject he was using – a bottle of wine with food on a wooden crate. It was perfect for this weeks subject, which is ‘eat’, so I decided to try and create my own version.

 My first thought was ‘where do I get a couple of wooden crates from’, but then I remembered I had a little wooden wine crate in the kitchen I could use instead. Initially I thought about setting up outside, using some ferns as a background, but by the time I got home from work, it was already getting dark. Never-the-less I emptied the wine crate to take a look at it, and draft some ideas up for when I had daylight to shoot in. I had taken up most of the side space in the kitchen with the contents of the crate, so the only space I had left to put it was on top of the stove. I then started arranging a few things, using some fruit I already had, and a near empty bottle of Pineau. I took a step back to take a look, and realised the tiles behind the stove actually provided a nice background, so I grabbed my camera and took a couple of test shots. It looked pretty good, but the kitchen light didn’t really give the subject much impact and the images looked a little flat, not to mention it wasn’t really lighting the subject well and I was forced to use a higher ISO (i was already using the widest aperture and lowest shutter speed I could use hand held). I suddenly remembered about the overhead light built into the extractor and flicked it on. Instantly the scene looked better, as the overhead light provided a warm directional light, adding some shadowy areas, and i was able to take the ISO down a couple of stops.

dsc_3696  Out of interest, I flicked the main light off to see how the scene looked with just the overhead light, and it looked really good. The shadows were intensified and it looked quite dramatic. It was at this point I decided I was going to do the project here, so I headed to the supermarket to grab some edible ‘props’.

 I came back with an array of fruit, some walnuts, cheese, a bottle of wine, salami and some bread.

I started playing around with the arrangement and switching the props to see what worked best, and if I liked it, I took a couple of shots.

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Before: This unedited shot was taken using only the overhead stove light. 

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After: Using Lightroom I made a few adjustments to the contrast, and added some clarity. Unfortunately the first slice of salami is not in focus, which is due to the wide aperture I needed to use. In hindsight, using a tripod with a longer exposure and smaller aperture would have alleviated this problem.

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Before: I sliced a pomegranate in half (spraying juice everywhere) and propped it next to another whole one.

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After: I added a little contrast and clarity to make the pomegranate pop.

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Another creative way of making the subject stand out is using selective colour. I achieved this in Lightroom using the individual colour sliders to remove unwanted colours. I replaced some of the orange hue on the pomegranate by using the adjustment brush and setting the colour to orange.

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Before: I found the best shots were taken using only the overhead lighting as it gave the scene more impact, but here there is too much shadow on the subject causing the detail to be lost.

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After: I increased the shadows to +30 and used the adjustment brush to increase the exposure on the fruit and wine to make it stand out more and retrieve the detail.

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As you can see, you can achieve great results without the use of additional kit, and this project only cost me the price of the food, (which I can eat after anyway!).

 

 

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Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled is a beautiful part of Slovenia that has been on my list for a while. This little gem is situated in the mountains with its own island in the middle and a cozy lakeside town. The lake itself is fairly small and you can walk around it in a day, but there is so much more to do.

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My girlfriend surprised me with a two day trip here over new years, which for me added something a little more special. We had been hoping for snow after seeing many of the winter pictures on Google, but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. In fact, even with temperatures averaging -8 Celsius, a local told us that this was a mild winter this year and normally you could walk out to the island as the lake was usually frozen. The only snow we found was the ‘fake’ snow being spread along the ski slopes; close enough I guess.

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Getting there

Getting to Bled is actually very easy, whether it be by car, bus or train. You don’t need to drive through treacherous mountains to get there as it’s not far from a motorway, but remember if you go during winter you will need to either have winter tyres fitted or snow chains on board. You will also need to purchase a vignette but these are cheap and can be bought on weekly or monthly tariffs depending on the duration of your stay.

If you choose to fly, the main airport is in Ljubljana, and you can catch a bus pretty much every hour from the main bus station and will cost you about 7 Euros for a one way ticket. You can also take a train, but the nearest station to Bled is Lesce which is a 4.5km walk into the town.

Accommodation

There are plenty of places to stay in Bled no matter what your budget, from hostels to 5 star hotels on the lake, and even a campsite. It all depends on what you can afford, and what you want to get out of your trip here. If you want to bring your furry friend, most hotels are very accommodating so just ask, or you can use the handy filter on Booking.com to search for places that allow pets; you’ll be surprised how many do.

We stayed at a place called The Garden House Bled, which was a small hostel with a rustic look and feel, kitted out with pallet style furniture, cosy double rooms each with their own balcony, and a shared kitchen with a traditional wood fire stove. The staff here were very friendly and helpful; on arrival we were shown a few good places to check out during our stay, and on new years eve we were invited to join the other guests for a toast around a bonfire. Rooms here usually go for around 20 Euros a night, but as it was new years, we paid a little more.

Things to do and see

As a photographer I did a little research before coming to Bled for good photo spots and things to see and do, so I already had a few things in mind. You can of course just leave everything to chance and explore by yourself, but there are a couple of places you absolutely must see.

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This is where most of the ‘postcard’ pictures are taken from, as the view is spectacular. To get here you need to follow a trail which is signposted, but not obvious, and isn’t too difficult of a hike but there are some steep verges, and if you are like my dog and have a fear of heights, you may need to be carried. Poor guy. There is another view point not far from Ojstrica called Mala Osojnica, but it is pretty much the same view from higher up. For the location of the trail have a look at this website.

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Set on the top of a steep cliff is Bled castle, the oldest castle in Slovenia, dating back to its first mention in 1011. Here you can stop and enjoy the stunning view from the café in the beautiful surrounds of the castle courtyard. There is also a restaurant and a wine cellar where you can taste and bottle your own wine.

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There are two ways to get there, by taking the steps up the side of the cliff if you are feeling energetic (it’s a fair way) or driving to it, and ticket prices are 10 Euros each for adults.

A wonderful new years getaway

As we went over new years the Christmas market was still there. Set up along the promenade, you could find many stalls selling hot mulled wine and local food, with live music and open fires to keep you warm, which is something you would never see in the UK.

When midnight hit we watched a colourful firework display over the lake, and reflected on what had been a beautiful new years getaway.

Lake Bohinj

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Before heading home we decided to visit another lake nearby called Bohinj; a serene mirror-like lake set in a valley only 20 minutes from Bled, reffered to by the locals as ‘the end of the world’ because there is no way out other than back the way you came. This being said, my sat-nav took this as a personal challenge and managed to find us a way out on what it thought was the fastest route home. A word of advice, head back to Bled before doing this, we ended up in the mountains and although it was fairly scenic, roads were pretty icy and it took us longer than the sat-nav anticipated. Live and learn.

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When you first see the lake, there is parking at the side of the road where you can get out and walk onto the shore, which is a fantastic photo spot.

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Further along the road you can find a cable car which takes you to the top of a mountain where you will find a restaurant and ski slope, and the view from there is unbelievable.

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You can also take a small hike up to Savica waterfall, which you do have to pay for, but not a lot. It is the third most visited attraction is Slovenia, but you are probably better off seeing this outside of winter as the main waterfall is not flowing and you can only see the smaller one, but pretty none-the-less. It’s only a 45 minute walk there and back so if you have the time and energy then take a look.

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A beautiful part of the world

Slovenia overall is a beautiful country, but seeing these two lakes has to be at the top of your list if lakes and mountains are your thing. It truly is a beautiful part of the world that you need to add to your travel bucket list.

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