Weekend Wanderings: Sunset Hour At St Leu d’Esserent

Equipped with my brand new travel lens I headed out last weekend for a photo session in a small community in the French Oise region

What I like most about my new Sigma lens is its large zoom (18-300 mm). While one may argue that this results in lower light sensitivity and vignetting, I am intrigued by another bonus: the weight of my camera bag. I now can travel with one lens only and don’t need a complete set (which can be tedious to carry on some hikes).

What travel photographer type are you?
Do you take one or several lenses?
Do you take the time to exchange lenses on different locations?
And how much time do you take for post-processing your travel shots? (I am becoming more and more fan of working on my photos on my iPad using either Snapseed or Lightroom Mobile)

Anyhow, I am glad to announce that my new travel lens passed its first test in the narrow alleys of Saint Leu d’Esserent during the blue hour:

st-leu-desserent-street2st-leu-desserent-street st-leu-desserent-sunset3st-leu-desserent-abbey2 st-leu-desserent-abbey1st-leu-desserent-sunset st-leu-desserent-sunset2

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Dangerous Winter Wonderland

Before blogging about the first signs of spring I would like to share some winter photos with you that I took in Germany last year. They depict a weather phenomenon, which is both beautiful and dangerous at once.

Fichtelberg ski lift Germany

Frozen ski lift on the Fichtelberg, the highest peak of the German Erzgebirge

In December, Saxony’s low mountain range (Erzgebirge, East Germany) was wrapped into thick fog layers lasting for weeks. The high air humidity coming along with the fog covered the region’s trees with hoar frost, which built up to a 30 to 40 cm thick ice crust. Needless to say that trees snapped off like matches under the heavy weight.

To avoid accidents, local public services decided to impose a ban to enter the forest above 800 metres. Streets were blocked for days and ski lifts had to shut down when some tree branches threatened to fall on the ropes.

Once streets reopened, we wanted to have a closer look at this newly created winter wonderland and went on a day trip to the highest point of the German Erzgebirge, the Fichtelberg (1,215 m), which looked as stunning as I had never seen it before. Me and my camera(s) got all excited; I could have easily spent the day looking at the most bizarre ice formations, but the cold…the severe cold…

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Photo Essay: Queensland, Australia

As we travelled from Cairns to Brisbane (North to South) we discovered that Queensland is much more than sunny beaches, surfers and adventure parks. There are also endless stretches of straight boring roads, millions of acres of sugar cane and in between — these treasures…

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Exploring A Tiny Part Of The Great Barrier Reef With The GoPro

Snorkeling the Outer Reef of Cairns gave us a tiny glimpse into an uncomparable underwater universe. Our goal that day was to see a sea turtle; we were lucky enough to swim with one. We hope to be back one day!

Please excuse the camera shake. We actually went out several kilometres to get to the Outer Reef. Big waves were rolling in right behind the corals, making quiet snorkeling almost impossible ;)

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Witnessing Australian Bushfires

bushfires in kakadu, australia

Bushfires in Kakadu NP as seen from the plane towards Cairns

Remember when I explained why Australian bushfires can be good — not talking about wild fires of course? I witnessed burning bush and grass in the Darwin region (Northern Territory) on 5 out of 6 days last July (cool season).

Even though prescribed burnings are considered “low intensity” it felt odd to drive through forest areas burning till the border of the street. The following photos are taken out of the car while passing fires in Kakadu National Park.

1. Approaching a managed fire area by car. Park Rangers scout the park for high growing plants, then throw in a few matches to avoid that too much fuel is building up. This shall prevent the region from struggling with high intensity fires, which would be much harder to control.

bushfire australia northern territory

2. Most of the bushfires I have seen around Darwin were smouldering, producing lots of smoke only. However, I did come across fires with high flames as well, and despite of my distance I clearly heard it crackling and sizzling. Controlled fires usually extinguish on their own during the colder morning hours.

bushfire australia northern territory

3. The sun through a thick smoke cloud. Since Park Rangers only burn small patches here and there, animals like birds and kangaroos can easily change location. For mice, lizards and other small ground animals however, fires are a real threat. They have to leave their ground holes and escape the heat while hawks are circling above them, watching out for food (yes, the black dots on the photo below are hawks — click on the image to see it in big). They learned fast that fires mean feast time for them.

northern territory bushfire

Bushfire between Kakadu NP and Litchfield NP

4. Passing a part of the forest which had been recently burned and now starts to recover. The ashes act like fertilizer for fireproof seedlings.

bushfire australia northern territory

A few months after, nature recovered, new plants grow wildly and the whole cylce restarts.

What do you think of fire management?

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Photo Essay: Northern Territory, Australia

How could I ever squeeze the words “freezing”, “dry”, “red”, “traditional”, “heat”, “crocodile”, “billabong”, “blue” and “bushfire” into one photo essay description without writing a novel? You’re right, I can’t. So let me just briefly discuss some weather phenomenons of the Northern Territory, which create a huge natural variety and diversity on the 1,800 kilometres between Australia’s tropical North and the continent’s arid centre.

During our first week in the Red Centre — around Alice Springs — we didn’t see a single cloud. Unfortunately, that clear blue sky over the desert didn’t offer much protection when temperatures dropped from comfortable 20°C over the day to uncomfortable 0°C at night. Camping fun!

That said, taking the plane to Darwin to spend our second week in the Northern Territory’s tropical North sounded like the greatest thing since sliced bread. Due to the wet season, when tropical cyclones and monsoons reign the northern top end, the Darwin region gets 9 times more rain each year than the central desert. While it didn’t rain during our stay (July = dry season), we got to see some clouds up north; and we were finally back to comfortable camping temperatures at night.

Let’s have a look at how these weather differences influence(d) the land, nature and animals of the Northern Territory.

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Photo Essay: Vivid Singapore

After a 1 hour bus ride through Singapore’s CBD in 2011 (transit tourism), we figured it could be fun to spend more time in that city-state. So we went back for 1 week this year, crashing at friends.

While malicious tongues claim it’s not worth it to spend a whole week in Singapore, we wouldn’t agree. We were actually quite occupied, never bored, and didn’t even manage to see all places of interest. The locations we enjoyed most were the ones standing out for their colourful appearance. Please click on the photos below to read their captions and learn more.

Anja’s “Singapore To Do List” (for a 1 week visit):

  • Stroll around the Marina Bay to soak up the skyline (best combined with the daily laser show schedule)
  • Visit the Marina Bay Sands casino (bring your passport since you officially “leave” Singapore when entering the place) and cocktail bar on the roof (you better win some cash in the casino for this one)
  • Marvel at beautiful native plants and orchids in the Botanical Garden
  • Visit China Town and plan in enough time for the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, shopping and lunch
  • Walk in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and watch out for macaques
  • Do the 11km circuit to the Tree Top Walk and back in MacRitchie Reservoir
  • Visit Singapore’s Zoo and try to join 2 or 3 of their daily animal shows or feeding sessions
  • For more shopping, Orchard Street is a must, though I admit it made me really tired
  • Shopping on a local market however is fun; try to taste (or completely avoid) Durian fruits

Got time left?

  • Visit one of the men-made islands (e.g. Sentosa) in the South for some beach flair
  • Book a 1-hour-flight to Kuala Lumpur and visit Malaysia for a day

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