Archives for category: Weather

On our recent trip up to tropical North Queensland, following the first two stops in Port Douglas and briefly at the Mossman Gorge, we cross the Daintree River into the rainforest proper. I am going to get this single point out of the way now –

the Daintree Rainforest is awesome!

I had known about this place all through school and when my interest in travel piqued its prominence as a destination to explore rose even further. All I can say now is wow! The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest forest in the world. At over 120 million years in age, it has never been beaten by the ice ages of the past. It is also the only place in the world where you can take a photo of two world heritage sites in one shot – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. It is also that forest that has the highest amount of biodiversity in the world. But this trip was focused on the forest that meets the ocean, and it turned out to be the perfect time of the year to go. It was surprisingly the low season, the weather was perfect, and the beaches were deserted. How else could I have got a shot like this one – no staging required.

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Crossing the crocodile infested Daintree River set the tone of the trip – adventure! We drove onto the cable ferry to cross the murky waters, waiting on the other side was the rainforest.

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Getting off the ferry, we immediately felt like we were surrounded by the forest with the tree lined route overhung with foliage. I couldn’t help but stop at the first lookout. I was surprised when we got there as the afternoon storm shower was rolling in. From the lookout we could see the mouth of the Daintree River, but it was the cloud and rain that I wanted to nab through the lens. This would be a perfect candidate for me to experiment with HDR.

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The drive itself along Cape Tribulation Road is fun. We hired a Subaru Forester for the the trip and it handled great on the roads. Along the route there are several aggressive speed bumps whose intent is to slow people down significantly around the areas where cassowaries are likely to cross. The cassowary in Australia is an endangered species with just over a couple of thousand still left in the wild. So my hopes in seeing one were to be random at best. But we got lucky, after traversing one of the many speed bumps my wife excitedly gestured to the left side of the road in the shrub. Sure enough there one was making a slow getaway back into the forest brush. This was the best I could do, given that I was behind the wheel.

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The expectation that the rainforest would be teeming with big fauna was quickly dashed. This is a forest of the small and nimble. I think this makes it even more beautiful, because it is not the domain of humans. The animals are definitely not scared of the tropical rain. Straight after the afternoon shower, these birds just got back to business in this red hued plant.

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The ferns, some of the most ancient of plant life, continued to slowly uncurl. The natural spiral pattern of the frond has an eerily mathematical beauty about it, and I will never get  tired of shooting them.

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Speaking of other animals in the trees, the largest spider I have ever seen was a common sight all around the rainforest. The golden orb weaver is huge, with its outstretched legs giving it a reach much longer than my outstretched hand. Initially they are quite confronting, particularly when a couple of the locals told us about the strength of their webs, but they are not aggressive towards humans. Their strands of spider silk have a greater tensile strength than that of steel. One of the locals said that American researchers were trying to work out how they could make body armour out of synthetically produced silk of this kind of spider, via goats of all things. In this photo I took you can see the tiny male in the bottom left of the photo trying to approach the female as she gorges herself on some insect food. The same local went on to tell us that the male would soon suffer the same fate as the insect “meal” but not before he went about his reproductive business.

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As dusk approached, the quite of the rainforest took over. There is no mobile phone coverage in the Daintree, no signal, no data, nothing. And the TV reception at the house we stayed in was dodgy at best. The noise of the forest takes over, the birds and beetles humming away. The moon was in the final stages of the waxing gibbous phase and illuminated brightly the night sky. The lack of other radiant light added to the aura of seclusion. I didn’t have my full blown Manfrotto tripod with me, but a mini one that I carry always was the steady arm for this shot.

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Before the above photo we took a guided walk in the rainforest at night. That is for my next post, but my recommendation is for anyone to do it!

The next morning, the sunrise was serene and spectacular. I didn’t quite get the shot that I wanted, the lack of a tripod hampered me significantly. But this was the best I could do. I like the “ladders” on the ocean that the sun’s reflection caused.

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We had a couple more days in the Daintree, and we chose to do some other adventures – zip lining and kayaking (again both for my next post). But I think the highlight for me was actually walking in the rainforest itself. There are a number of boardwalks where you can walk both into the dry and wet parts of the rainforest, whilst ensuring that you don’t get lost. The only danger being the swarms of mosquitoes hungry for the sting. The mozzies were relentless around the wetlands, but on the dry rainforest floor not so much. But it was nothing that a spray of repellent couldn’t keep at bay. Walking through the forest with my travel partner in crime, my wife, brought back our sense of adventure that has gone a bit dormant as parents of a 3 year old. My wife and I love to travel together, and over the last 14 years we have been to many, many destinations around the world. When we do travel together we naturally take on designated roles. I am chief pilot/driver, repairman, photographer, scout, and sherpa. My wife is chief travel planner, logistics manager, chef, spotter, and a somewhat accurate navigator.

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The flora is spectacular and was the inspiration for James Cameron’s movie Avatar. The trees were very strange, and very seldom were adjacent trees of the same species. Here are two together, a regular tree being slowly consumed by a strangler fig. Eventually the strangler fig will devour its host and all that will remain will be the fattened roots of the strangler fig forming a tree on its own.

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A break in the forest canopy, caused by the last cyclone pounding the coastline is a prompt for regeneration. These Daintree fan palms are unique to this part of the world, and their leaf diameter was over a metre. For this part of the rainforest, this was the canopy.

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The Daintree is home to 28 different species of mangrove. You experience a significant change in your surroundings when you reach the wet part of the forest floor. The water runs off from the mountains and into the ocean. This is unlike anything that I have seen.

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The trees changed colour, notice all the orange, and it went from being very green to hues of orange and brown thrown into the mix.

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The muddy forest floor was teeming with crabs! Mostly they were no bigger than the palm of my hand and they were all shy. Everytime we came within a couple of metres of them, they burrowed back down in their holes. So to grab this shot I had to move slowly, silently, and softly on the boardwalk. It wasn’t until after I downloaded the image that I noticed the second one at the bottom of the shot who was motionless to avoid detection.

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While the waters of the ocean looked inviting it was very stinger season with the Irukandji jellyfish everywhere. The waters look sooooo inviting, even with the cloudy grey tropical sky.

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So the best place to take a natural dip is in the watering holes dotted around the forest. We went for a swim at Mason’s watering hole (no bikini shots of my wife allowed 🙂

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Tips for a trip to the Daintree Rainforest

The natural beauty of the rainforest is breathtaking. Here are some tips that I picked up for the next time when I take my son when he is older.

  1. Hire a four wheel drive (SUV) – a small hatch or sedan is not worth the bumps and discomfort. Even if the 4WD you hire is only a small.
  2. Make sure you bring mosquito repellant – you have been warned.
  3. A solid pair of hiking shoes will increase your mobility – it is a forest after all.
  4. If you a bringing a camera, one that is good in low light is best – the forest canopy significantly reduces the available light with which to shoot, even in the middle of the day. First side tip is to keep your camera handy when you are driving (I would have missed the cassowary shot if my camera was packed in the boot). Second side tip is to bring an underwater case if you have one (the forest climate is very wet).
  5. Bring a pair of binoculars if you have them – I am sure there were things I did not see in the canopy above my head because I wasn’t optically armed.
  6. Get used to not having a phone – who needs to be constantly connected anyway.
  7. Water, water, water – carry with you a bottle, camelbak, flask, whatever. It is hot and humid, and you want to keep going to see more.
  8. Careful what you touch – the plants are more of a danger than the animals.
  9. Careful what you pick to eat – most of it is poisonous.
  10. Relax and take in the world of micro – it is awe inspiring, but don’t expect to see child size lemurs jumping out of trees.

Magic Accommodation

Finally I want to put in a plug for the accommodation that my wife found. We stayed at the Sanctuary Bed and Breakfast house at Cape Tribulation. The house is spectacular and we had it all to ourselves. It sits in the forest canopy and is far enough away to be privately secluded, but close enough to get to most of the sights in Cape Tribulation within 15 – 20min. Just don’t forget not to leave out any food for furry or six legged visitors.

Here are a couple of photos of the house (and I shot a number of the photos in this post from the wooden deck).

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After a torrential downpour and thunderstorms the night before, my planned morning Saturday ride was put on the back burner. To be honest, since my biggest ride down in Melbourne a few weeks back for Around the Bay I have backed off the cycling a bit to have a bit of a rest for both my body and head. But Summer is only a couple of weeks away now and I have got the itch to first complete my new MTB build and get back in the saddle and ride. Funny thing was this morning as I was about to add the next bit of my new MTB construct, the forks, my boy (AKA “The Pok”) turned around and said “Can we go for a bike ride?” He had a grip on the left side of his handlebars with one hand and his helmet in the other hand. But he didn’t just want to go for a spin with me walking (more like running to keep up) behind him, he wanted me to ride my bike with him. I thought about it for a split second, then told him “put your shoes on and let’s get ready to roll!” I was going to take my MTB steed with some road / urban shoes on it and take him for a ride.

Our First Ride Together

Living in the city, it is a bit dangerous for a little man to be riding, but fortunately we live within walking distance to one of the many parts of Sydney Harbour where there are walking paths along the shoreline. So as soon as we got down there we jumped in the saddle and off we went. There were puddles everywhere which was like waving a bit of candy in front of The Pok. Every puddle was a target to ride through, which meant for him wet shoes and socks (he is on a balance bike) … and a huge grin from ear to ear. Our destination was the corner store at one of the wharves around the corner from Darling Harbour in Sydney, and the reward was ice cream. I didn’t realise that this was going to be 2.5km riding away, but he didn’t balk at it for a second. The Pok was even foxing a bit with me in the set of mini races that we had, where he would slow down and lag behind waiting for me to back off a bit before he would shoot off and ride ahead of me yelling back “Daddy, I am winning and you are the slowest in the world”. This bit of trash talking was muttered several times, and I had to hold back my competitive rebukes (I will smash him in a few years when we are in a proper race so he understands the pecking order while I am ahead – hehehe – Dad’s rights). When we hit the propellers, we turned around and I couldn’t let this moment not get caught on film. Here is the video I took riding alongside him.

By the time we got back home we had knocked up 5km, pretty impressive for a recently turned 3 year old boy. The Pok came up to just as we reached our street and said to me in a contrite tone “Sorry for teasing you Daddy.” I didn’t get it and replied, “What were you teasing me about?”

He said “Sorry for teasing you about being slow.” Then he burst out giggling to run back and tell his Mum about our ride together. In recounting our little adventure he told his Mum, “When I get bigger and get a bigger bike, me and Daddy are going to go on a long ride together.” I am looking forward to that (and in kicking his butt in our next “race”

A few days ago I blogged about a single photo of Sydney Harbour when the bushfires commenced in NSW. It looked like Armageddon had arrived in Sydney. Here it is again:

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I uploaded this shot to Flickr as I do with all my photos, for one main reason – I want to own the rights to my photos. So it was to my surprise that I received an email this morning around 10am that said:

“Hey Christopher Yardin, Yahoo Editorial has added your photo to their gallery.”

I started putting two and two together. Flickr is owned by Yahoo, and just recently they have revived interest in this photography based social platform by offering everybody up to 1TB of cloud storage for your photos. There are not many photographers who have 1TB of image files, so I think they are pretty safe when it comes to hitting their storage limits. But I have noticed a pretty big increase in photo views on my account as a result (I blogged about it previously – as it was pleasantly surprising to me). But through one very important user favouriting my photo and adding it to their gallery, my photo views and in particular this shot have gone through the roof. This is the graph after 4 hours of the favouriting action:

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This is now my most popular photo by a long shot and at the rate I am getting photo views today it will be in the multiple thousands of views by this time tomorrow. I am a bit shocked to be honest. I take photos for my own enjoyment and capturing visual memories, and then hope that other people enjoy viewing my photos as well. That is partly why I write I started this blog. But I never thought that I would take a photograph that would be viewed by thousands of people. It just goes to show you that being in the right place at the right time cannot be underestimated.

It also goes to show that my choice to pack a decent camera with me wherever I go (in this case my Canon Powershot G15) has borne fruit. This sparked public interest is giving me the impetus to get out and shoot more.

Regardless of my joy, there are firefighters doing it tough battling against Mother Nature in some pretty incendiary conditions. It looks like this Summer in Sydney could be one of bushfires and blazes.

A strange light descended over Sydney Harbour this afternoon as the sky was filled with smoke from distant bushfires and the sun was only peering through a small hole in the clouds to the West. The Golden Hour hadn’t yet arrived either. The buildings in North Sydney appear to be glowing, but they are not lit up.

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UPDATE: When I posted this photo I didn’t realise the extent of the threat unfolding in the West of the city. I was simply marvelling at the photo opportunity. There are a lot of people who are now displaced with the threat of losing their homes. A great number of Rural Firemen risking their lives to get the fires under control. Godspeed to all these people.

My trip to Hawaii is less than a week away now, and I am pumped. My brother’s future brother in-law has spurred me on and hired a road bike for the week in Maui. I have done the same, and now I am looking forward to doing some cool riding on the island. I am going to have to bring my pedals from my road bike along with my riding kit. As this is my first time to Hawaii, I have been doing some reading up on other blogger experiences of riding in Maui. It is some very interesting reading, particularly reading people’s accounts of climbing the Haleakala volcano – the longest climb in the world. At over 3000m, I don’t have the legs at the moment to attempt this ride, nor probably the time. Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian pro-peloton rider and current Giro d’Italia champion holds the record at some 2 hr 32 min. But that was a ridiculous ride, where he pumped out over 350W of power for the whole climb. Most of the other cyclists that I am reading about are doing it somewhere between 4-6 hours. Below is the video of the Ryder’s assault on the Volcano in an attempt to beat his boss Jonathan Vaughters then record.

But I am getting the kms in the legs. I have racked up a couple of 60km rides and regularly now churning out a couple of quick 40km spins during the week too. I love this time of year riding in Sydney, perfect weather and fewer riders, walkers, and runners out on my routes. If I ever decide to go for a night spin now there are few people around the traps.

But back to my Maui riding coming up. The big gotcha that a lot of the cyclists talk about is the huge tradewinds that blow across the island pretty consistently. What they most talk about is planning the rides so that the routes are mostly in the shadow of the two volcanoes. It might take a bit of driving to get to the start of some of the rides, but it beats riding into the ridiculous headwinds that these tradewinds produce on a return leg. There are some fairly good roads, and a few that follow the coastline too. I am looking to get in quite a few long rides and hopefully a bit of climbing too. While Haleakala might be out of the question, there may be hope to ride some of the valleys up Puu Kukui. Here is hoping for 7 days of sunshine, cool weather and glass smooth roads (though I will settle for 7 days of good riding).

Maui tradewinds

One other thing that I am pumped for is my favourite organised ride of the year (even if it is the shortest), the Ride around the Lake down at Lake Illawarra. At only 40km long I am going to try and smash it, and believe I have the legs for it this year to have a bit of fun. I got a 42km ride in this morning with one of my riding buddies MG and felt some good power in the legs. I just need to shake off my annoying congested lungs.

I can’t wait to fly out next week!

I have posted a couple of times now of our many trips to Singapore, including the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands art and decoration. These posts were predominantly about man made structures. Singapore is known worldwide as the Garden City, but for some reason it was not until my sixth trip to the country that I managed to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The gardens also contain the National Orchid Garden and it is a surreal escape from the hustle and bustle of the city state’s downtown area. Given Singapore’s tropic location, it is always raining there. But the rain didn’t deter us from visiting the gardens, and it added a different dynamic to the surroundings. I really enjoyed the few hours we spent there, it was relaxing, even though we walked a lot! I was surprised at being allowed to get so close to some of the flowers and plants to shoot macro. There are also some garden sculptures throughout the gardens, but it is not over the top and compliments the gardens well.

Even on a cloudy, rainy day the gardens are alive with colour. Below are my favourite photos from our trip, and as usual the images link through to my larger photos on Flickr.

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I spent a good portion of my visit carrying the Pok in his “rucksack” while he was asleep. It is quite strange trying to operate a Digital SLR camera with a big weight hanging from your belly.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - Dad and Pok

It is quite easy to get to the gardens with a bus stop right next to the Southern end of the park and a metro station at the Northern end. There are also quite a few exhibitions on as well during the year. Timing your visit, if that is possible, to be around the time of the orchid blooms makes for a much better visit. If you want to know where the Botanic Gardens are, I have attached a link to the location on Google Maps below.

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The ANZAC Bridge is Sydney Harbour’s other bridge. It is the one that is often forgotten by the tourists, but equally important in keeping Sydney moving. In my opinion it is an engineering beauty whose elegance lies in its myriad of cable stays and it’s two sentient towers. The area in which the bridge is situated holds lots of Sydney’s working history, with the old sandstone quarries being located on the Pyrmont side (East) and one of the many old dockyards surrounding the harbour foreshore being located on the Rozelle side (West). For many American GIs posted to the Pacific Theatre in World War II, they would have departed from Sydney in boats docked near where the Western footings now stand.

The weather this last weekend has been pretty much rubbish, but at sunset on both days the heavens opened up and provided a spectacular sky show with the ANZAC bridge as its star. Come to think of it, the weather this Summer has just been bizarre – and I think there may be another heatwave coming our way later this month. Both my Canon EOS 400D SLR and Canon Powershot G15 came out for a play and here are the results. As usual all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

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The last shot is of the cycle path that loops around on itself on the Pyrmont side to bring you up to the height of the bridge deck. I have ridden this too many times to count. If you are interested in going for a walk to the bridge you can find it at the location below on Google Maps. Make sure you stop at the Sydney Fish Markets for a bit to eat while you are at it as well.

ANZAC Bridge - Google Maps

 

Cyclone Oswald has well and truly left us now, but not without carving a swath of destruction over the Northern Territory, Queensland, and NSW. It has absolutely belted South Eastern Queensland and North Eastern NSW and hit Sydney with a vengeance early last week. There are a lot of people in Queensland who have lost everything again, but at least this time they were more prepared. The satellite image below shows its size as it hit South Eastern Queensland, days before descending down to where I live in Sydney. If you want to get an idea of the scale that the storm is covering, this would swallow up the whole of Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands at once (as well as parts of Italy and Germany) – I this checked by comparing the area of coverage on Google Earth.

Cyclone Oswald Satellite Image - SE QueenslandWhen it hit Sydney it was downgraded to a category 5 storm, but it pretty much drowned out the remainder of the Australia Day long weekend. By Tuesday morning (29 January 2013) the storm had dumped 100mm of rain between midnight and 6am – pretty scary. Being an amateur photographer, of course I wanted to capture my experience of the storm. I didn’t dare go out, given it was blowing a gale and my camera gear was not quite waterproofed. But I did venture out onto the balcony and pulled out my new Canon Powershot G15 to shoot a couple of snaps. I wanted to see what the in camera HDR setting would do and how would it show the detail in pretty horrid and bizarre low light conditions. Here are two shots that I shot on the Monday night before the real rain shower began. As usual all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

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There is a complete lack of definition in the sky and the drowned out clouds kept on dumping more as I went to bed. The reflection of the water on the buildings and the road brought out a lot of detail that I wasn’t expecting to capture – and I must admit, for a couple of HDR images, they don’t look to unrealistic. By comparison, here is the same two compositions taken using the camera’s auto setting. I much prefer the low light detail of the buildings and trees being brought out in the HDR images, without muddling around with the colour balance, hue, and saturation of the images.

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Cyclone Oswald AUTO - Sydney - #2Meanwhile, inland, between Sydney and Melbourne our poor farmers can’t buy a bucket of rain. I took this shot while flying back to Sydney from the air and was absolutely amazed by how barren and brown the land was – while the coastal cities and towns were drowning under rain and flooding. There is no denying that Australia is a land of extreme beauty, but also extreme weather and we get reminded of this every day.

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Most people would take a rainy, windy, night as an opportunity to have a night on the couch in front of the tube. But I like to shoot photos, and I think the rain at night time provides a wonderful opportunity to get out and capture something different. I like night photography a lot, particularly the colours of artificial light and how different this light looks bouncing off reflective surfaces. Illuminations as my wife would say.

My location tonight was a simple one – Jones Bay Wharf. I once took refuge there having been caught out in a storm at the end of a night ride. After catching my breath I noticed the way the wharf caught the night lights and how the rain came through the gaps in the upper deck. I thought to myself that I would have to come back and shoot this with the SLR should the same conditions arise. Tonight presented that opportunity, though I think I lucked out on not receiving a more torrential downpour. What I was hoping to capture was streaks of light bouncing off the rain as it trailed down from the grates. But I got slightly different conditions, and a subject conveniently parked for my point of focus. All the images click through to my larger photos on Flickr.

Rainy Night on Jones Bay Wharf 1

I was hoping for the pale yellow opening to provide the showering from the grate, but the rain had eased up by the time I got there. The motorcycle was positioned perfectly, and I think the older styling suited the aging of the wharf’s skeletal structure.

So this was not quite the photo that I had been planning for. But I thought to maximise the situation, and shoot a few more photos for the evening. I went up a bit further and took the shot in reverse looking back the way I had come, still placing the motorcycle as the focal point. I like this shot better.

Rainy Night on Jones Bay Wharf 2

I prefer the colours exposed by the night lights cast against the stone cutting in the distance, but also the concrete colours of the wall and even the red bin cover. It all adds a bit of depth to the shot, and better reflects the varied activities that occur on the wharf.

So that was the location, but I wanted to get one last shot in. I started walking back to the car and then remembered that the wharf platform would be soaked, offering a perfect mirror to the night lights. I also knew well that I could probably find a location with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background. Here is the shot, and it offered a good mix of lighting in the cloudy sky, strong diagonals, and a bit of colour thrown into the mix. I am happy with this third one too.

Rainy Night on Jones Bay Wharf 3

I will have to come back to this location when it is properly raining. Here is the location on Google Maps, it is my local area and within easy walking distance from the city.

Jones Bay Wharf - Google Maps Location

I will work on the cropping and exposure settings for next time. I didn’t wash any of the photos through Photoshop, other than the first to correct some of the vertical perspective via the crop tool. Focussing in the dark was challenging as well, and maybe I could extend the depth of field for the shots. I would love to hear from other photographers on how they would shoot the locations differently. Looking forward to the next spontaneous shooting opportunity.

Next clue for my header photo – the building is named after an ex-European Head of State from the late 60s to mid 70s. Time to giddy up and hit the sack.

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