It’s Christmas Day 2016 and I’m in a generous gift-giving mood, so for my review blog for the year I’m giving you not six, not seven, but EIGHT pictures. Well, that includes the header above, taken one November morning as the sun’s rays spread across the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, from the West Bengal hill station of Darjeeling.
It’s been another exciting year with some amazing assignments and adventures. Here are a few highlights – well, seven to be exact:
So where next? Lapland again, a voyage on a working icebreaker in the Baltic, and another India adventure are planned so far, but new years always bring new surprises. Watch this space…! And best wishes to all ‘visitors’ for a happy and peaceful Christmas.
A shamefully occasional photo blog presenting six-at-a-time appetizers of the delights in my photographic larder. Sneak in for a midnight feast at www.timbirdphotography.com
The most exotic and exciting venue for photography for me in the locality of my home in Helsinki, Finland, has always been the historic island fortress of Suomenlinna (literally, Finland’s fortress). Helsinki is a vibrantly modern city but that means it’s short of truly old historic districts. Suomenlinna’s ramparts and defences are built across a small archipelago of rugged islands, a mere 20 minute ferry ride from the city’s main market square. A UNESCO listed World Heritage site, it’s a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year, romantic and windswept and with wide sea views.
For myself, winter has always been the best time to visit, especially when (or in these days of unpredictable climate, if) the sea freezes. This winter has been the coldest for some years and that means dramatic sea ‘smoke’, the effect of very cold air sweeping across not-yet freezing water. There has been a fair amount of snow, too, with more to come, it seems.
And it also seems that my fondness for Suomenlinna in the winter is being increasingly shared. Today I got a press release recording the fact that the numbers of winter visitors have soared. There was an increase of 14 per cent in the total number of visitors in the winter months in 2015, and the total of over 200,000 was a new record.
Since this means I might not have the place to myself in coming years, I don’t know if celebrations are called for, but in any case I’ll mark the news by showing six of my best shots from the dramatic afternoon on January 5 when the the entire archipelago and South Harbour were enveloped in that extraordinary ‘sea smoke’. Here goes:
Visiting Suomenlinna while in Helsinki is easy – just jump on the ferry. Helsinki city transport tickets are transferable. Click here to find the timetable from the Kauppatori (Market Square). More information about Suomenlinna and its museums and restaurants: click here.
If you’ve enjoyed your visit to Six Picks, come back and let me distract you again some time, or visit previous blogs in the series. And feel free to Tweet toot, hoot, share and anything else that social media well let you do – but remember copyright is MINE! If you’d like to use the photos for any other purpose please get in touch.
At last – my new eBook, ‘Motion Pictures – a travel photographer’s companion‘ is now available on three eBook platforms. In addition to the launch version for Amazon Kindle, the richly illustrated 96-page all-colour book can now be bought on iTunes and Kobo.
Quoting my own blurb: “Designed especially for viewing on colour devices, this is a beautifully designed companion to anyone whose twin passions are travel and photography. The book contains tips, advice and anecdotes by experienced award-winning photographer and writer Tim Bird, illustrated with his own colour photos, and featuring sections by three top guest photographers. An entertaining and inspiring companion rather than a ‘how-to’ manual, this eBook discusses cultural issues encountered when using your camera in exotic locations as well as practical shooting situations.”
I’m returning to Six Picks after a long absence with the great news that my eBook, ‘Motion Pictures – a travel photographer’s companion’, is now available on Amazon. Here’s the blurb:
“Designed for viewing on colour devices, this is a richly illustrated, beautifully designed companion to anyone whose twin passions are travel and photography. The book contains tips, advice and anecdotes by experienced award-winning photographer and writer Tim Bird, illustrated with his own colour photos, and featuring sections by three top guest photographers. An entertaining and inspiring companion rather than a ‘how-to’ manual, this eBook discusses cultural issues encountered when using your camera in exotic locations as well as practical shooting situations.”
I’m hoping to follow up with Apple and Kobo versions, although the publishing processes of both platforms are presenting various frustrating obstacles to this. It’s available on different Amazon national sites, including the USA, Mexico, India, Germany, France and Australia. I’m donating a euro for every copy sold to the very worthy charity in Nepal, Moving Mountain School Bag.
The eBook will make a perfect companion for anyone joining my fabulous photo tour to Assam in April 2016. Still places available for what promises to be the adventure of a lifetime: click here and here to learn more and contact me at email@example.com when you’ve decided to join me!
Other great news includes my award from the British Guild of Travel Writers as Photographer of the Year 2015, presented at a gala dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London on the eve of the World Travel Market. It’s the second time I’ve won this award – the first was in 2012 – and I’m thrilled to be recognized by such a prestigious organization. This news was followed by more good news, namely that I have two photos included in the finalist list for the Travel Photographer of the Year awards and one shortlisted in Outdoor Photographer of the Year. The winners will be announced in December.
Here are the winning four shots from the BGTW award:
Here are a couple of my own shots from the eBook, two of many from a richly illustrated design which is the work of my talented friend Ea Söderberg, director of Hapate Design:
If you splash out the modest sum for my eBook you’ll see plenty more of my work and share some of my ideas and stories about travel photography. Feedback welcome, and if you do make a purchase, I’d be eternally grateful for a review on Amazon too.
Over and out for now – watch this space for more news about my photo tour to Assam!
Info for photo gear nerds (like myself): All photos made with Fujifilm equipment, XPro1 and XT1 bodies with various lenses, although mainly 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom.
A photo blog providing a quick distraction in the form of six images from the files at www.timbirdphotography.com
I’m taking the opportunity in this Six Picks to announce the launch of an exciting new venture, Bird’s Eye Photo Tours, which I am planning in cooperation with Intrepid Travel. The first adventure sets off in April 2016 to the state of Assam in north-east India. Initial details of the tour itinerary are listed at Bird’s Eye Photo Tours – I’ll be adding to these later – and if after reading this you’re interested in joining our compact group of eight photo enthusiasts, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me using the comment form below and I’ll tell you more. You need an adventurous spirit, an interest in and basic competence in the basics of photography, and a willingness to accept and embrace India’s special culture…
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A reasonably regular photo blog of six images either taken from or about to add to my considerable travel photography archives at www.timbirdphotography.com
I’ve just downloaded a fun plug-in for Lightroom called Topaz BW Effects and I’ve been playing around with it. It seems especially interesting when processing portraits, and I seem to have developed a special interest in the photographic possibilities of skin and facial features. I’ve tried it out with some pictures from Indian travels. See what you think, and let me know! Feedback and photographic discussions always welcome.
As I said, feedback and comments always welcome. If you have enjoyed your visit, Tweet, Share and sing it to the rooftops. And do come back again.
Six images in a photo blog taken from my travel photography archives: visit www.timbirdphotography.com to see more of my pictures.
Last week the Travel Photographer of the Year competition announced its results for 2014 and I was delighted to get a picture Commended in the Wild & Vibrant single image category. I’ve been Highly Commended in the past, I won their 10th anniversary celebration competition last year, and I have been a finalist in previous years as well as this one. Thousands of entries are received from over 100 countries so I regard it as a definite compliment to be recognized in any way. The competition has become as much a part of my annual calendar as Christmas, along with the exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, London, that displays the winners and which takes place next year from July 24 to September 5. There’s a link to the winners’ gallery at the bottom of this page.
My commended picture, above, shows an early morning scene from the forests in the mountains close to the town of Angangueo in Michoacan, Mexico. The forests are protected to some extent against logging and wayward tourism as part of the El Rosario Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Every year in the North American winter millions of Monarch butterflies make the long flight south – over 2,000 kilometres – to these same few hills to spend the winter.
When I made the climb up into the forest one early March morning in 2009, the first visitor of the day, the sun was still rising and the butterflies were resting in vast clusters in the treetops. In fact, it took my eyes some time to adjust to the fact that these were not leaves but an enormous congregation of insects. When the sun began to rise, the wings of the butterflies began to open in the warmth and after an hour or two the sky was alive with a softly fluttering orange cloud.
It is one of the most extraordinary, beautiful and spectacular phenomena in the natural world, made even more remarkable by the fact that the butterflies that return north to the United States and Canada from migration will not return to spend another winter here – in other words, the insects are somehow instinctively programmed to make their way to the same hills and forests.
A Mexican translator friend who helped me to arrange my visit tells me that the area is now more dangerous to get to because of the rising drug cartel-related and other violence that is sadly part of Mexico’s everyday life, so my visit was well timed. Happily the butterflies are immune to this particular kind of inane human activity, although not to environmental human damage.
It’s nice to be able to draw attention to a positive story from Mexico, a beautiful and exciting country with a vibrant culture. Perhaps my Commended picture and the others you can see here will serve as a small reminder of the country’s happier attractions.
In my next issue of Six Picks I plan to show you some of the images that were shortlisted for the TPOTY competition but didn’t quite make the winner list – watch this space!
TPOTY winners this year: http://www.tpoty.com/winners/2014
Congratulations to all the winners – these are some of the world’s top travel shooters and to get even close to their company is an honour and pleasure – and encouraging too.
A frustratingly occasional trawl through the travel photo archives: visit www.timbirdphotography.com for more
To the west of the Indian state of Gujarat and bordered to the south by the Arabian Sea in the region of Kutch lies the extraordinary Great Rann, a seemingly endless, dazzling expanse of salt marsh, flooded in the rainy season but a covered with a crystalline crust of sodium chloride for the rest of the year. The 7,500 square kilometre white desert stretches as far as Pakistan in the north-west and you need to pay for a special permit to approach the area. It’s one of the hottest parts of India, with summer temperatures reaching well above 45 degrees, although it can sink to zero in winter. Indian tourists congregate on the edge of the Rann to watch the sun slide down beyond the shimmering horizon in the evenings.
It’s without question the most spectacular expanse of featureless landscape I have ever seen! Here are Six Picks to give an idea of the local ambiance. The fellow with the henna hair is a local resident. The tented accommodation shown here and the musical entertainment were provided at the highly recommended Hodka Shaam-E-Sarhad (Sunset at the Border) Village Resort:
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