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photography

Five Tips for Better Mountain Photos

I’ve always been fascinated by the mountains and the sweeping views they provide to the ones putting in the work and climbing to the top. For landscape photographers like me, they provide endless photo opportunities and inspiration. In this article, I share five tips to help you make your next mountain trip a success.

Do Virtual Scouting

The most rewarding views for me are the ones that aren’t famous on Instagram yet. I’m looking for the lesser photographed areas on my trips into the mountains. But if you can’t find any photos of a view online, how can you tell it’s worth photographing? After all, mountain photography can involve a lot of work and effort, so it’s nice to get a reward at the end.

Virtual scouting using Google Earth can be a great help to assess the potential a view might hold for photography. Below, you see an example. The first image shows the virtual view from the Gaishorn mountain in Austria. I used the browser version of Google Earth, flying around the Vilsalpsee while looking for potential photo spots. With Hochvogel mountain in the distance and Rauhorn in the middle ground, this view intrigued me. So, I decided to give it a try.

If you use the Google Earth app, you have even more possibilities. You can, for example, simulate the light at different times of day. It will tell you if a mountain face or valley is already in the shade when you plan to photograph it. But even with the best virtual scouting, finding a proper foreground will still be up to you once you reach the photo location. So plan in enough time for it.

Also, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a photo. First and foremost, enjoy the hike and the views. For me, it’s already rewarding to be out in the mountains. Just know that you’ll eventually be rewarded if you repeatedly put in the work.

Get to the Top

While having the mountains looming over you and your camera might be imposing, looking down across ridges and valleys to endless layers of mountains is even more impressive. Photos taken from the top invoke a sense of longing. Such views are often much harder to find and access, making them special.

So, don’t shy away from a strenuous hike. Reaching the peak will already give you a sense of achievement that makes the effort worth it. And if you are also lucky with the light, it’s the icing on the cake.

Stay Flexible

The first tip was about pre-visualizing the view you intend to photograph once you reach your destination. But don’t get too attached to the result of such a virtual scouting. It increases your chances of success because you already know that there is potential. But the same as when heading to popular photo spots of which you’ve seen photos before, look around and be open to noticing other points of interest in the landscape.

During the virtual scouting I shared in the feature video, I dismissed the view in the next photo. The features of the landscape in this direction didn’t look very spectacular compared to the view south. But as I walked around the peak of the Gaishorn and saw these boulders lined up at the edge of the mountain and the warm sidelight hitting the slopes, I instantly made it my main subject.

Zoom In

Every time I head up a mountain and don’t bring the long lens, I regret it. It’s always tempting to get rid of another one or two kilos of gear as you pack your backpack. But especially on clear days, having a long lens with you on the mountain opens up many possibilities. While haze and light rays in the distance will be hard to notice in a wide angle photo, you can make those your main subject with a zoom lens.

I took the photo below at 200mm. The haze provides a sense of depth, while the light rays open up the otherwise dark foreground. As usual, I debated bringing my zoom lens before starting the hike. But thankfully, I had learned my lesson during previous photo tours.

Use the Golden Hour

The best time to take photos in the mountains is during golden hour. With mountain photography, it’s a lot about light and shadows. While I love a warm alpine glow after sunset or before sunrise, most mountain scenes look best in golden light. The shadows cast by the light can add structure and dimension to a photo and direct it to the viewer.

Direct light also helps separate the peaks of a mountain vista. Without it, layers of mountains quickly merge into a singular mass. It means you shouldn’t just arrive at your viewpoint an hour before sunset. Better make it two hours, so you are ready once the sun starts casting the mountains in magical light.

Conclusion

Although the mountains can get crowded, it’s still one of the few places to find solitude. Especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon, the peaks become more and more deserted. And there’s nothing like having such views for yourself.

But I also want to leave you with a word of caution: know your limits. Since you’ll have to do part of your hikes in the dark to photograph sunrise or sunset, you should feel comfortable in alpine terrain. Also, don’t only research the views. Get an understanding of the difficulty of a hike. Some trails are steep and rocky, making them dangerous for inexperienced hikers.

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travel

Tips for Planning a Last Minute Trip

It goes without saying that planning a holiday in advance has its advantages. However, life happens and being an early bird is not always possible.

Additionally, not every travel enthusiast is an eager planner and some simply enjoy embracing spontaneity.

If you are planning a last minute trip, here are a few tips to make it an stress-free experience.

Be flexible with dates

When it comes to last minute travel, flexibility is key. Having flexible travel dates will allow you to secure better deals. For example, travelling on Christmas or New Year’s Day may be cheaper than travelling on the eve of those days. This is because less people are willing to sacrifice those special days sitting in a plane or a train. If your travel dates are not set in stone, you can take advantage of such deals.

Check your budget

Going on trips is undoubtedly exhilarating, but ensuring that you have enough money before leaving your home is of utmost importance.

Fixing your budget is essential to ensure that you have enough funds, especially because it is a last minute plan. Along with availability, your budget will dictate your destination, which hotel you will stay in, and whether you are able to partake in certain activities.

Finalise your mode of transport

Being decisive when it comes to your mode of transport is essential. This will affect the amount of time you will use travelling and how much you will pay.

Finding availability on your chosen mode of transport will depend largely on your destination, budget and chosen travel days.

Look out for the cheapest deals

One of the common disadvantages of last minute planning include very high prices. However, this does not mean good deals do not exist. If you look hard enough, you can still get some last minute bargains and affordable travel deals.

Look around for these, and when you find them, grab them with both hands.

Be informed about your destination

Research is an extremely important part of the planning process. If you are travelling to your chosen destination for the very first time, read up on the local and famous food, as well as the areas popular attractions.

Because your planning is last minute it is also beneficial to look into areas that do not require one to book in advance. Such information will be helpful as you draft your itinerary and plan for a memorable holiday.

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Lifestyletravel

Frequent flyers share their time-tested travel tips

Whether you’re travelling for business or leisure, the details can make the difference between a trip that’s stressful and one that’s spectacular. From planning your trip to finding accommodation and packing well, five regular roamers share their best advice.

Use tech to streamline planning

Judy Sahar travels up to six times a month for work — the Melbourne-based CEO of Crowd Media Group regularly visits clients and colleagues interstate — and she also plans her family’s annual overseas holiday. Sahar swears by technology to streamline the process.

This includes Apple Wallet to check-in to flights and Uber to pre-schedule transport to and from the airport. She uses Google Workspace to consolidate meeting notes and share information and content with her team back in the office.

To plan holidays, she sets up a dedicated WhatsApp group and shared Pinterest boards. “I set up polls on WhatsApp, so my travel group can easily vote on things like where we’re going, what type of holiday it will be (adventure, relaxing or resort), types of accommodation and any internal travel,” she explains.

“We also use a private Pinterest board for sharing ideas for restaurants, shopping precincts or entertainment. Every member has their own board, then we vote on where we’ll go as a group. This makes it so much easier as there’s no back and forth.”

Don’t reinvent the wheel

With a young family and a growing business, SLAM Solutions, that can see her travel a couple of times each month, Diana Abeleven doesn’t have time to waste. So, when booking accommodation, she prefers to stick with what she knows and likes.

“I stay regularly at Holiday Inn and every time I walk in, I know I’ll be looked after, I feel a sense of familiarity and comfort,” she says. “They know me by name, they keep everything simple and seamless. It’s a pretty small thing, but I know when I stay at a Holiday Inn the bed is going to be a comfortable one, the room space will be just what I need to relax but to also get work done when I need, and the team will make my stay enjoyable every time.”

Abeleven also appreciates Holiday Inn’s reinvigorated clean, modern design, with thoughtful touches like an in-room desk space to get work done. On a recent stay in Geelong, she was struck by the newly designed open lobby area.

“When you walk in, it really is such an area for everything and everyone — the lobby, restaurant and bar. I was able to easily work from there while I waited for a colleague to arrive for our lunch meeting.”

Spend more time packing

Last-minute packing results in ballooning luggage and forgotten items. Monique Van Tulder — a former travel professional who now splits her time between Sydney and the Whitsundays, where her mother lives — firmly recommends conscious packing for a stress-free trip.

“Lay everything you think you want to take on the bed. Choose a colour scheme that works together, such as black and navy or white, cream and khaki, plus one bright shade for a dress. Put away all items that don’t fit this colour scheme. The remaining items must be able to work with at least two others — for example, a denim shirt can become a jacket, then dressed up with a scarf.”

She also recommends taking a photo of each possible outfit and saving it on your phone. “Yes, it’s more work upfront, but on the road it means fewer wardrobe decisions, leaving more time to enjoy yourself.”

Van Tulder learns from past packing mistakes, too. “After each trip I make a list of what I actually wore, so I can reach for this next time as a place to start.”

Separate your essentials

While Jye Smith is firmly in favour of taking carry-on luggage only, that doesn’t mean he stashes everything in a single bag. “There’s a crucial difference between access and carry,” Smith explains. “Access is what you can reach during transit – those essentials you need at a moment’s notice. Carry, is what you lug around.”

The managing director of branding agency Doublestar Co, Smith’s ‘access’ bag holds his wallets, personal documents, and tech arsenal — laptop, tech bag, batteries. His ‘carry’ bag holds the rest, even when he travels to the USA or Asia.
Find ways to walk

As a longevity coach and speaker, Marcus Pearce is well-practised in finding ways to incorporate healthy habits into his day — and this extends to his fortnightly travel days.

“When you factor in driving to the airport, waiting at the airport and sitting on the plane, you can be sitting for hours so any chance I get for movement, I take. I prefer to take the ‘cheap’ parking option so I get my steps up — it can be 1500-2000 steps from the car to the lounge, which is great from a health perspective,” he says. “I’ll take the stairs instead of the escalator, and at international airports like Abu Dhabi, I’ll walk instead of taking the travellator to the gate.”

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travel

Traveling During Christmas? Here Are Some Affordable Destinations In The U.S.

Unlike many people think, December is an excellent time for finding travel deals for hotels and flights.

There are many classic destinations to visit during Christmas, but travelers often need to postpone their plans due to the high prices. However, December is also excellent for finding travel deals for hotels and flights, especially before Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

It’s the time to discover popular places without many tourists or find a warm place to forget about the winter for a few days. Luckily, the U.S. has incredible cities to visit during the holidays, and some become more affordable in December. Although inflation is raining on many people’s parades, this article should help guide you in the right direction this Christmas season!

1. Flagstaff Feels Magical At Christmas

  • The city puts on an annual Polar Express train ride.
  • Hotel rates are the cheapest during the winter here.

One affordable winter destination for those in the Western US is Flagstaff, Arizona. Not only does the entire town turn into a white wonderland once the snow falls, but Flagstaff also gets very festive for the holidays, including a Polar Express train ride. The streets throughout town are also illuminated with lights, music, and joy for the holidays, making this a special place in the Grand Canyon State.

Speaking of the Grand Canyon, few tourists will come here during colder months, and hotel prices drop as well, so maybe do both? They’re close!

2. Orlando Has Excellent Deals

  • Orlando is home to countless theme parks.
  • The daily temperatures in winter are in the low to mid-70s.

Tourists who love the holiday spirit but hate the cold weather can have the best of both worlds in Orlando, Florida. The average temperature in the city in December is 72.1 °F, and there are endless activities for the whole family.

There is no better way to get into the holiday spirit than to explore the theme parks’ special activities. Travelers should consider spending it at Disney World, Universal Studios, or SeaWorld. Yet, Orlando is crowded during Christmas, and travelers must expect long lines when visiting the theme parks.

3. Christmas In Las Vegas Might Be Surprising

  • Las Vegas hotel rates are at their lowest during the Christmas season.
  • The hotels across the city go all out with their decorations for Christmas.

The World’s Entertainment Capital shines even brighter in December. The iconic Bellagio Hotel and Palazzo Hotel mesmerize visitors with their Christmas decorations, and the many bars across the city are perfect for having a drink and celebrating.

It’s also relatively easy to find good hotel deals in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the holiday season, so that’s another excellent reason to visit the city. The days are often warm in December, making Vegas another great spot to skip the cold days.

4. Grand Canyon Is A Great Spot During Christmas

  • The Grand Canyon will be less crowded during the winter.

The Grand Canyon is filled with surprising spots, and most people visit it during the summer. However, seeing the national park during the winter offers many pros: visitors can avoid the crowds, the temperature tends to be milder, and there are many winter activities in the area.

During the holiday season, tourists can take the Polar Express to visit Santa’s workshop. Of course, there are many options for hiking, and it’s the perfect time to watch the sunrise at the South Rim, especially when there is snow.

5. Salt Lake Is The Perfect Balance Between Peace And Fun

  • The public transportation is amazing in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Snow always falls during the winter, making for great skiing.

Salt Lake, Utah, is relatively cheap in December, and there are plenty of activities for different types of travelers. The city features excellent public transportation and is a perfect spot to visit during the winter. Visitors can find fantastic ski and snowboard slopes in the surroundings, while Woodward Park City is famous among people who want to adventure snow tubing.

Travelers can also enjoy the vibrant art scene at Salt Lake, which is full of murals and sculptures.

6. This Hidden Gem In Texas

  • Arlington is home to Six Flags Amusement Park and other family attractions.
  • There are countless Christmas markets, light shows, and parades.

Arlington, Texas, receives fewer visitors than other cities in the estate. It’s an excellent destination for families, as the city is immersed in the holiday spirit with light shows, Christmas markets, parades, and theme events. Arlington also features excellent bars and restaurants, making it the perfect place to enjoy the season.

For Christmas market fans, Arlington embraces the holiday spirit and features one of the country’s best Christmas markets. Visitors can also enjoy the light show at Hurricane Harbor Parking Lot.

7. Discover Charlotte During The Winter

  • Charlotte is less crowded and cheaper to visit in the winter.
  • The streets will be filled with music, lights, and holiday cheer.

Most people prefer to visit Charlotte, North Carolina, during summer. Yet, winter is an excellent chance to explore the city with fewer visitors and find more affordable hotel prices. Visitors can enjoy the holiday spirit by strolling on Christmas markets, attending romantic candlelight concerts, and discovering the excellent heated patios and restaurants in town.

Travelers can also find cozy campsites outside Charlotte, a perfect way to enjoy quiet days in December.

8. Visit This National Park In Montana

  • Montana Glacier National Park is affordable and open year-round.

December can be an excellent time to slow down, and one of the best ways to do it is by being close to nature. Luckily, the U.S. has many National Parks open year-round, and the Montana Glacier National Park is one of them.

During winter, visitors can enjoy the Montana Glacier National Park winter forest covered in snow, cross-country ski or snowshoe on the closed roads, or join the hosted tours on the weekend. There is also free auto camping available in the area.

9. This Affordable Spot In Vermont

  • Stowe offers some of the best skiing in the United States.
  • Try to book lift passes at least one week out.

Stowe, Vermont, has been named one of the best ski towns in the country. Although other spots in the region have better hotel deals, Stowe is covered with more snow than other areas – Therefore, there are no risks of run closures. Travelers can save money by booking lift passes online at least one week in advance.

For travelers who want to discover the region during other seasons, Stowe is also stunning during summer.

10. Winter Is An Excellent Time To Visit Chicago

  • Although chilly, Chicago is most beautiful at Christmas time.
  • There are free city events during the holidays, like ice skating.

Chicago, Illinois, tends to be cheaper during the winter, making it an option for travelers on a budget. The hotel prices drop during the season, and there are plenty of activities.

Travelers can enjoy Chicago by discovering its outdoor ice skating rinks and light shows, strolling over Christmas markets, and watching the world’s largest permanent digital art projection at Art on theMART. Art fans can also visit the Art Institute of Chicago and the Prince Immersive Experience.

11. Explore Free Activities In San Antonio

  • San Antonio is family-friendly and ranks highly for culture.
  • The city puts on an incredible Christmas light display.

San Antonio is one of the most colorful spots in the United States. The city combines the culture of two countries (the U.S. and Mexico) and is an affordable destination year-round. The temperatures are mild during the winter, and it features arguably the most gorgeous Christmas lights in Texas.

Tourists can enjoy many free activities, including visiting a museum, strolling along the river, and visiting the San Pedro Creek Culture Park. Another must-go spot to see is the Alamo and its historic buildings.

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