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While in Saigon recently I was lucky to join up with Adam and the team from Saigon Unseen for their Moto Foto Tour.

The Moto Foto tour is an essentially Vietnamese experience where you are guided around several locations in Ho Chi Minh City on the back of a motor taxi and depending on your level of experience, spend time learning photography or accessing some great photo locations off the tourist path.

The first location we visited was an open air café in a park, where over caphe sua dah, we discussed camera techniques and composition before moving on to make some photos of people practicing tai chi then back on the bikes for a visit to Ba Chieu Market in Binh Thanh District.

This is a thriving, colourful local market packed full of characters, most of them more than happy to be photographed. On a couple of occasions I was practically kidnapped by some guy wanting me to make some photos of his family and friends. They asked for nothing in return, for them the reward was simply the pride of having their family photographed.

We spent a magical couple of hours wandering the narrow alleys of the market laughing with the locals, playing with children and making many, many photos.

Following the market, and in the middle of a downpour where we had to stop the bikes to put on ponchos we headed to Jade Emperor Pagoda where the mood was somewhat more subdued.

It was difficult to adjust from the rush and fast pace of the market, to the muted atmosphere of the temple, with its dark corners and fading beauty, but that is one of the challenges of travel photography.

Overall this was an insightful half day that reminded me how much fun hanging out with other photographers can be. Enthusiasm is infectious and even after the best part of 2 weeks in Vietnam photographing daily, I came away with a renewed energy.

Click an image above to open a gallery.

More information on Saigon Unseen’s tours can be found HERE. 

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DSC_6772The Pinnacles are the dominating feature of Cape Woolamai 

Located around an hour and a half drive from Melbourne CBD, Cape Woolamai is found on the eastern most tip of Philip Island. The cape is somewhat typical of rugged Victorian coastline and is dominated by clifftops and rocky outcrops.

Although the entire cape is spectacular, the Pinnacles, an outcrop of 3 pointed rocks, are the most well known and awe inspiring feature, and a heaven for landscape photographers.

Gear

Wide angle lenses are recommended and a sturdy tripod is essential. Cape Woolamai faces Bass Strait, whose open seas can be a little rough at the best of times, so you will definately need to contend with wind on some level.

Most of the best vantage points are to the east of the Pinnacles, meaning that at sunset you will likely be watching the sun dissapear behind the rocks. This can make for some dramatic images but means that a balanced exposure is quite difficult. ND graduated filters are ideal for combating this.

Where there is wind, there is also seaspray, so ensure to take a cloth or several to keep lenses clean between shots.

As for non photographic equipment, comfortable shoes with lots of grip are essential, as well as food and water as you will likely be there a few hours. A torch is also recommended if shooting at the ends of the day as you may need to make the trek in darkness.

Getting There

Phillip Island is an easy drive from Melbourne, and Cape Woolamai carpart is just a few minutes over the bridge.

From the carpark, there are several walking trails of different lengths that lead to the Pinnacles. The fastest route is to start out along the beach itself. After approximately 10 minutes walk, a staircase will lead up to a path along the clifftops which in turn is a direct route to the Pinnacles. The walk in all is around 30-40 minutes. Along the way you may also find wallabies. Be sure to stick to the path as the area is home to many short-tailed shearwaters (mutton birds) who nest in the shrubbery.

Decending to sea level from the path can be tricky as the only way down is by a narrow path down a steep slope. Those with health issues may choose not to make the decent. Fortunately, there are many photo opportunities from the top of the cliffs.

DSC_6842-2

If unable to decend the steep slope to sea level, there are still plenty of options available at the top of the cliff face.

When To Go

Sunset during any season can be spectacular. Although the trip can be made at high tide, it is best to choose a low tide period as access to the beach will be a little easier, and more of the rocky headlands at the feet of the Pinnacles will be visible.

Also check the wind velocity will not be too high. It is a given at a location such as this one that there will be some wind, however extreme wind can be both dangerous and almost impossible to photograph in. On my own last trip, the wind was so strong, I struggled to hold my camera still enough to get a sharp image even at extremely high shutter speeds, and also couldn’t risk the decent to sea level.

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Alfred Nichols Memorial Park
The boathouse at Alfred Nicholas Memorial Park

The Dandenong Ranges are located just east of Melbourne and for city folk, they are a convenient way to get out of town on the weekend and escape the big city for a day or even a few hours.

For photographers the Dandenongs are also a paradise. The cool Victorian climate means that foleage stays lush and green year round. It is also one of the best places locally to find Autumn colours.

The Dandenongs National Park itself is huge, and includes many walking trails making it a wonderful location to return to often as you will always find something new to photograph.

Alfred Nichols Memorial Park
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens

Highlights: Giant Mountain Ash trees and lush dense ferns, colourful native flowers and Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens with its seasonal colour, man made lake and old boatshed.

Autumn Leaves
Autumn Colour 

Gear: Wide angle is generally what the scenery lends itself to, however you may want to consider a longer lens as well, or even a macro if you intend to shoot flowers. A polarising filter is also a handy tool to make the most of the green foleage.

Kangaroo Paw
A longer lens is also an option if you want to photograph the local flowers. 

How to get there: From Melbourne city centre, the Dandenong Ranges national park is a short 1 hour drive. Some tour companies also run daytrips.

Sherbrooke Falls
Sherbrooke Falls: Many walking trails uncover hidden gems for the photographer.

When to go: Personally, I find overcast conditions are best for photographing forest scenes, so winter generally is best. Many mornings in winter are also quite foggy which makes for some beautifully haunting scenes.

 

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Point Lonsdale Lighthouse

This post is pretty localised, but if you’re ever in Melbourne it’s well worth taking the time to head out of town along one of the Peninsulas that form Port Philip Bay and taking in coastal towns, beaches and lush hinterland. There are many locations on either side that are great for photographers, but one in particular I keep returning to. Hopefully if you live far, far away this will give you some ideas to explore your local area for photos.

Point Lonsdale is on the Bellarine Peninsula at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay and offers photographers a wide range of shooting opportunities. This review aims to be a short guide as to what photo opportunities you might find to help plan a visit.

Highlights: The lighthouse is Point Lonsdale’s main feature and dominates the landscape. The best views are from the western side either on top of the cliffs or on the main beach where you will have the sun behind your back at sunset. The lighthouse sits atop a rugged cliff top above craggy rocks that have been shaped by the ocean over the years. These can be used to good effect to give a remote feeling to the scene if that is your intention.

Point Lonsdale Lighthouse

Point Lonsdale has an old pier now only used for fishing. Great shots can be had from the beach on either side, or from on the pier itself looking back towards the coastline and lighthouse. It faces east so you’ll need to be up early if you want the sun in your shot.

Point Lonsdale Pier

The main beach faces the rough Southern Ocean which swells over rockpools which provide some beautiful reflections in the right light when the tide is out. The shape of the pools change constantly with the tide, so repeat visits will almost always bring a different result.

Point Lonsdale Beach

As well as this there are many opportunities to photograph birds, flora and rugged coastline.

How to get there: From Melbourne, it’s a 1 1/2 hour drive along Princess Highway. A car park is located only a short walk from the lighthouse itself so no hiking is required. Easy access to both beaches is via stairs.

Gear: A wide angle lens is a must. So is a tripod. A good solid one is needed to combat the high winds that whip off the Southern Ocean. Many shots are likely to be at sunrise or sunset, so you may want to also pack a set of ND filters.

When to go: Summer is when you’re likely to find some amazing sunrises and sunsets, but it gets busy. If you don’t want your photos to include people then sunrise is the better option. Winter can also provide some beautiful colours and due to the rough seas can make for some quite brooding scenes, perfect for black and white photography.

 

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