San Frantastic

After two rocky days aboard ship, we alighted in the hilly, eccentric, free spirited city of San Francisco. I felt as though we had properly started ‘travelling’; the Alaskan portion of our adventure feeling more of a splurge, a calm before the storm, an expense before the backpacking penny pinching – and we were excited. As we checked into our city centre hostel we soon found out that the US Government had ‘shutdown’ and as such our plans were to change as we couldn’t hit Yosemite National Park unless it opened in time (which it wasn’t to do), giving us 5 nights in San Francisco to explore, navigate and enjoy before deciding to head North by an hour and camp in the state park of Mount Tamalpais. San Francisco was a great energetic city. It boasts to be very liberal with a lot of history in the gay rights movement, and this eclectic and diverse energy and culture seemed to ooze from its pavement pores as we wandered around trying to visit the main tourist sites along with pounding the streets of the more eclectic areas. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery With the US government shutdown an Alcatraz visit was out of the question, but after trekking for a day from our hostel, through the city, over the famous “most photographed bridge in the world” Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito, we caught a ferry back during sunset and drifted slowly past the infamous prison. Even at this relative distance ‘the rock’ intrigued and fascinated me – maybe due to the copious amount of films I’ve seen about it – and it didn’t let down my over zealous imagination as I imagined breakouts and film-esque plotlines playing out within its shores. We had also landed on the eve of a world famous music festival – Strictly Blue Grass – and when checking out the acts saw that one of the bands we both like, First Aid Kit, were playing on the Friday evening at 4pm. The festival that boats 5 big stages over the urban sprawling 1.5mile square Golden Gate Park has been held for the past 10 years after the philanthropist creator of the festival donated millions of dollars when passing away to ensure the festival would run, free, every year for the next 12 years. We headed down to the free 3-day festival and listened to the music, ate from the copious amounts of amazing street food vendors and relaxed on the grass watching the world and all of its eclectic individuals pass by. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery When I first arrived in San Francisco I put out a message on Facebook to ask for suggestions in this city, and my brother who had visited a couple of years previously suggested checking out Bourbon and Branch, a speak easy where booking is essential and cocktails are the order of the day. After finally getting a table (this place is popular) we had the secret password and location by email and headed down to the bar. Knocking on the non-descript, non-signed door, we were presented with a woman asking if we had the password, where upon giving out the secret information were allowed into an amazing 1920’s speak easy bar. This place almost invented the world cool; 1920’s décor, low level lighting, a set of rules (no phones, no pictures, no asking for a cosmo, and of course, speak easy) and the bartenders and waitresses dressed up accordinly. We stayed there for a couple of hours before dinner having an amazing time, tasting our way through some seriously stupendiously tasty cocktails before wandering back to our hostel, slightly inebriated, way beyond our budget, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Throw in a random condimental selection of watching the gawping sea lions at Pier 39, moving to a disgusting hostel for a couple of...

Alaska

Alaska, the last great wilderness, or as John Muir said “To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world”. This mythical area was next on our wanderings, a mere 4 days after landing back in Vancouver from our explorative and adventurous Yukon trip. In the 4 days in-between we had worked, packed up, cleared up, partied our goodbyes and left Vancouver to begin our 5 months backpacker trip home via the America’s. Unlike what is to be a more rough and ready, stuff all your belongings into a 60 litre bag, turn up in a city and wonder how to get to an eclectic and eccentric hostel, we had given ourselves one last parting gift in the form of a 10 day cruise from Vancouver, up to Alaska, before heading south finally alighting in San Francisco. Purchased in 1867 for $7.2 million from the Russians to become America’s 49th state, this great landmass spans over 586,000 square miles, is inhabited in only 5.3% of its phenomenal landmass, and is home to some amazingly adaptive creatures and amazingly awe-inspiring scenery. As we departed, teary eyed from Vancouver late on Saturday we wandered around the 10 floor bulking cruise liner and wondered if 24 room service really was free, if we really could dine at 4 course exquisitely decorated dining rooms, where the gym was, what temperatures the sauna, outdoor and indoor jacuzzi’s were, and what time the 12 station buffet closed (it turns out it only closes for 15 minutes between 5pm and 5:15pm). Was this really us, was this what we were after, could Hannah take in the obvious show of money and glorification? Maybe not, but now we were on board we decided to revel in...

Yukon Adventures – Days 4-6

This is part two of my blog posting on our trip down the Yukon River. The first part can be found here We awoke trepidisously in our tent wondering what the lake would bring to the days affair, yesterday’s events quickly coming to the forefront of my mind, but as we peaked out of our 4ft hole, a calm, sunlit day was in force and it looked as though it was here to stay. Indeed it was, and although we were both a little nervous clambering into our little floating world as we set off around 8am, after 20mins of paddling we were under way gently paddling northwards in and around the coves and admiring the views once again. With over an hours worth of hard paddling and not consulting the map during yesterdays storm however, exact knowledge on our location was proving hard to fathom, and we just couldn’t seem to figure out exactly how far up the lake we had travelled. We knew though that as long as we stayed with the shore on our right, we’d be going in the right direction and eventually, one day, would hit the end of the lake. Our day 3 on the water was to prove one of our longest as we were keen to make some headway and make up any potentially lost time the day before, and with an early start, a quick stop at lunch and another for a break around 3, we finally ended the day around 5 on a deserted beach having decided to carry on another km or so past the more well trod campsite-esque looking beach earlier. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery This was true wilderness camping; no campsite, no nicely flattened rock ridden earth for a tent, no potential fire pits or areas for storing food, but we both revelled in the fact and enjoyed overcoming all these small obstacles to make a little home-away-from-home on the rock strewn beach. As per protocol we cooked, cleaned, and stored all our food a good 30ft away from our tent. We gently watched the sun go down over another spectacular sunset with mountains, reflective lake and lapping water in our sights and lulled to bed as we both slowly dozed off to a star ridden sky. Thump, thump, thump, thump, sniff. I awoke at around 2am to some heavy footfalls outside. My brain awoke and started to process the noises. Thump, thump, thump …… sniff …… Bear! I could hear a bear and he had literally stopped metres from the tent. CRASH!!! F**K!!!!!!! The bear had just swiped the tent! “Hey are you alright” asked Han as she awoke thinking I was outside and had just fallen into the tent. “Shut the hell up, there’s a bear outside” I whispered to her, frozen, terrified, petrified in a scared rigid pose. We both stayed silent, listening. Wondering. Hoping. My mind was swarming with thoughts from where the bear spray was, to what do if it started to try to come in. After 10 seconds or so, it seemed that our vigilant food storing was paying off, and we heard the bear slowly lumber away as his footsteps died off into the distance. A minute later I moved again, we both agreed it had gone away and tried to sleep. “Whoosh” said the wind. “Shit, a bear is running towards the tent” said my brain. “Splash, ripple, splash ripple” whispered the gently lapping waves “F**k, a bear is swimming towards our tent” alarmed my synapses. An so it went for the rest of the night as I dozed in and out of sleep, perceiving every noise to be a bear-related attack just waiting to happen. At 7am we both woke up to another glorious day and played chicken to who was going to open the door to the tent first. But the bear had...

Yukon Adventures – Days 1-3

This is part one of my blog posting on our trip down the Yukon River. The second part can be found here I wake, its Christmas day, I wonder why every Christmas Eve since I discovered the wonders of beer I decide to drink unsavoury amounts of the sweet flavoured nectar the night before the big day, trudge downstairs, take some paracetamol in an attempt to shake the headache off in time to be able to gluttonise myself over the next 14-15 hours, and have the usual disapproving shake of the head from mumsy Wilkins. An hour later and I’m unwrapping my presents, slyly playing the ‘who’s going to be the person to open the last present’ game by hiding a book shaped object underneath the table to bring out an opportune moment after my dad reveals one from down the side of the sofa – his usual ploy. As I unwrap the present with a sense of satisfaction at winning the game for the 3rd year in a row, I look at the title and read ‘Journeys to take before you die’. With 38 different ideas on adventures and locations to explore in the world, I skim through it and place it to one side wondering if it’s a coffee table paper weight or a tome of knowledge and adventure. A year later and Han and I are ticking off one of the journeys as we traverse over the Atlas mountains in Morocco making our way down to the Sahara Desert. Four years on from there, and with two years of Vancouverite living under our belt, the book was once again proving to be a bible of inspiration – the ‘canoeing down the Yukon from Whitehorse to Carmacks’ trip was calling out in its geographically prevalent voice; the trip had stuck in my mind from the book those 5 Christmas’s past. Do we have the time? What about a cruise to Alaska we wanted to do? How much does it cost? What about bears? Coyotes? Cougars? When are we going to fit it in? Were all questions zooming through our minds, and then in a moment of clarity and enlightenment we realised….. “lets just book it”. Two months later and we found ourselves at Up North Adventures signing forms for bear sprays, canoes, paddles, satellite phones and an array of camping and cooking equipment from pots and pans to axes and saws. The reassuring tones of Bernie, one of the shop assistants who was helping us with all the intricacies and packing procedures, were helping us to smoothly navigate through the multitude of questions we had, but were juxtaposed with some gut feeling that this was a bigger and more dangerous adventure than we were letting ourselves face up-to. I almost felt like a cheat, out of place, somehow pretending to be someone I wasn’t, outwardly being Superman but inside feeling like Clark Kent, but I kept on reassuring myself with three base principles: This is a common trip to take, especially in summer, and lots of people undertake the expedition. We’re going down a river – we can’t get lost or go the wrong way. They’re letting us do it with minimal fuss and no background checks or delving questions. It was with this mantra that I figured that at the end of the day, its simple paddling, down a river, with some camping thrown in every night. What could possibly go wrong? We had opted to take the classic route from the fairly populous city of Whitehorse (sporting circa 27000 inhabitants, over 2/3 of the entire population of the territory), located around 60 degrees north in the Yukon Territory of Canada, to Carmacks, a small town of around 3500 people and 350 river kilometres northwards. The route and towns were made famous in the turn of the 20th century when gold was found on the Yukon River...

Halves, full’s, knees and straits

The month of June pulled me through on a manic adventure ridden tour, that before I knew it July was settling in to its mid term lazy sun driven days, and August was getting excited for it annual month long tour. And so as I write this on the first trip back for a year to the heat-wave sun-burnt England, I take a deep sigh, relax, and reflect on what has been an amazing variety of fun and frolics in Vancouver and beyond over the past 40 days and 40 nights since the last update. Early on in June, as the remnants of spring were finally subsiding and summer was shining brightly on the horizon Han had her inaugural Half Ironman race across in the wine region of the Okanagan. Lying between the Coast Mountain Range and the Rocky Mountains, we’ve visited this area twice before to taste and gargle our way through 6 or 7 vineyards a day, but this time as we headed East along the scenic mountain road of the I5 mine and David’s minds were firmly set on crewing Han and ensuring her race went as smoothly as possible, rather than on Elephant Island, Borrowing Owl and the Hidden Chapel vineyards. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery The original Ironman started in 1978 (where the 1st place athlete on the final running leg ran out of water and was given beer instead, only to finish in 2nd), has long been coined the toughest of tests of human endurance, and the Half Ironman is no mean feat clocking in at a 2km swim, followed by a 90km cycle and then finishing with a 21.2km (half marathon) run. Han set off on a beautiful wind swept morning as highs, lows, grit, determination, helium filled aerial camera failures, and the usual dose of food, beer, and good times with good friends were had, but the small film that David and I made can explain Han’s race more succinctly and emotionally than I could here. A week later, and in a concerted effort for Han to rebuild the lost muscle and used up calories, fun fuelled Friday found four of us drinking and dancing our way through Vancouver Craft Beer Festival, sampling a host of weird, delightful, crazy, surprising, obnoxious and mind flowingly tasty beers. Although the event finished at the rather subdued 10pm, meaning the next morning was headache free and breakfast ready, we found it pleasantly surprising to be drinking outside in a city that usually outlaws such crazy behaviour, especially as the sun was shining throughout the event. The next weekend arrived and Han and I took a well earned rest over on Sechelt as we shut down at my aunt and uncles house for 3 days, enjoying the 180 degree panoramas of the Strait of Georgia. A week passed, Saturday arrived, I looked up from my GPS watch and I took in the heads of 7,000 runners as I stood near the front of the Vancouver Scotia Bank Half Marathon, hoping to improve on my personal best that I had set in February of the year in a time of 1:21 and 20 seconds. I knew that over the 21.1km course, a 3:45 min/km pace would find me stepping across the line in just under 1:20, so as I ran down the gradual decline before traversing back up the said hill and shooting by the 5km mark, I was happy to see my pace just hitting under the target at around 3:40. With a 6km downhill section to follow, I knew that I had to stay around that pace, if not slightly quicker, to give myself some leeway on the elevation neutral zone, before the slight uphill, round the coast on Marine Drive, over Burrard Street Bridge, and around to Stanley Park and the finish if I was to stand a chance at...

Ultra Marathoning – Trials and Tribulations

I wake up and roll over. I momentarily wonder why my left achilles is throbbing on every movement, and why my legs want to tell me a story of pain and non-paid overtime. My mouth is dry and my head is taking longer to process anything and everything. Then I remember I ran my most mentally and physically demanding trail race for over a year the day before, where once again I was shouting at myself that I would never enter another ultra marathon again. Roll back three weeks and my legs are telling me how much they enjoy being part of my life. Barry and I are tootling along South down the I5 heading towards Olympia in Washington to compete at the Capitol Peak 55km / 50mile trail race. I was feeling some what relaxed and in good spirits, which considering I had crashed out and ‘bonked’ at the 32km mark in my last Ultra Marathon on Orcas Island, was somewhat surprising but welcome. I had done the right race-prep, I had had a good solid run 4 days earlier where everything seemed to be in working order, but most importantly I was ‘in the right place’ mentally. With the ghost of Orcas Island sitting squarely on my shoulder, I wanted to run the Capitol Peak 55km with the aim of ‘just finishing’. I had no goal, no timeframe, no body else I knew running to pull my competitive brain along to uncomfortable zones (Barry was undertaking the 50mile option), and was actually looking forward to just getting out there, taking my time and enjoying the race as much as I could. I had also learnt a lot about fuelling and food / body management since Orcas, and was going to be strict with myself to stop at every aid station to relax and refuel. People have called ultra marathons an ‘eating and drinking competition with running thrown in’ and this was a mantra that I’ve slowly had to comprehend and learn. Your body burns up around 400-600 calories per hour while ultra running, and unlike shorter races you just can’t run for 5+ hours without taking food on board during the run – your body just can’t sustain that calorie deficit and keep on moving. And thus one of my goals at Capitol Peak was to learn to eat and drink properly during a race, and not feel rushed past the aid stations. The race started well, I was running at a comfortable 5-6min per km pace depending on terrain and elevation, and was happy tootling along listening to the conversation of 2 other runners who had camped up behind me. The first aid station came up at only 8km in, but I was strict with myself and against everyone else’s race schedule, stopped, drank some water and ate a few carbs before carrying on. This was a schedule I kept to for the rest of the race. Being a very symmetric kids-drawing-of-a-mountain elevation profile race, the first half of the run was all uphill, but against all long distance races I’d competed at before, I reached the top of the climbs at 31km and was feeling good. Not just, ‘good for 30km, but actually pretty crap’, but just ‘good’. I had enjoyed the infamous ‘grunt’ that we had been warned about at the pre-race talk, I had even ran up some of it and passed a few runners in the process, posed for the photo at the top, before whistling down the other side chatting to a Belorussian runner from Minsk (post race analysis would show I was actually 2nd fastest up that section from the 20 or so runners who had uploaded their run onto Strava).    With the rest of the race net downhill, by the time I got to 35km I knew I was going to finish. I felt confident in myself, my running, and my body that we were going to drag ourselves through the next 20km...

Sun Run Time

My life in Vancouver has definitely taken a running turn over the past year, as I’ve thrown myself into the running scene and enjoyed, gritted, pushed, found limits, jumped over the figurative running wall, stubbornly succeeded, un-stubbornly failed, and tried to find that elusive escapism that pounding out miles with just you, the trails, great friends and the elements can give you. However, as much as the enjoyment factor is a large part of the scene, my competitive nature and constant search for targets, times, goals and numbers has found me standing toe-to-toe at the start line of a surprising number of races and distances over the past 18 months in Vancouver. I found myself competing at the 48,000 strong 10K Vancouver Sun Run two weeks ago, along with the just-hoping-to-finish 55K Capitol Peak ultra marathon a week later; both races as far removed mentally as their distances were physically. The first would find me in ultra competitive race mode, where as the other would both humble and surprise me. Coming into the Sun Run I knew I was probably the most race fit and fastest I’d ever been for the distance, and thus was excited to have some clearly defined time goals in mind, each of them becoming more hopeful than the last. A korfball friend back home had recently finished her 10K in an astounding 37:05; closely following her speedy shoes was my buddy Big Nick (who organises a local 8k run back home in Birmingham) who had a PB of 36:40; and finally there was the quite possibly craziest distance runner I’ve ever known, local running friend Barry, who had a blisteringly fast 36:06 PB from a year ago. The Sun Run is one of the largest road races in North America, and...

Snow Capped Adventures Apr05

Snow Capped Adventures

As with all post vacation energy, it seems as though my body is in need of another rest as soon as I come back from the holiday, usually due to the large amount of adventures Han and I seem to try and squeeze into the time we have available when experiencing our getaways. And so, not wanting to break from tradition, our last few weekends have been action packed as our diaries grumble and creak at the adventures we pen into them. T+16 hours after landing on Canadian soil from Hawaii, we found ourselves in a car with friends and luggage abound on a weekend trip to Manning Park with our running club, Pacific Road Runners (PRR). Every other year the club organise a trip out to this beautiful national BC Park to relax, drink, snow shoe / run / ski (as you see fit) and generate that bonding and club atmosphere that all good clubs seem to exude. Being located roughly in the middle of Vancouver and the Okanagan (3 hours East from Vancouver), nestled cosily in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, and lying directly on Highway 3, Manning Park is not only within easy reach for us Vancouverites, but also a wonderful place to experience some of what outdoor Canada has to offer. Our group were staying in the impressive 36+ bed ‘lodge’, which offered us plentiful space to cook, create, play and relax, and is just a mere 5 minute walk away form the main resort bar, restaurant and swimming pool. We had a wonderful couple of days snow shoeing up and around the main ski resort mountain to Poland Lake, before settling in for some hot tub action, poker tournaments, and beer drinking entertainment. I even managed to find time to throw in a few impromptu balloon modelling workshops. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery It was a great post-holiday holiday, and really did recharge the batteries ready for ‘normality’ back in our home town. Thanks a ton to the organising committee of PRR who do such a great job of arranging, booking and coordinating all these things. However next weekend, not wanting to let the constant drip of weekend adventure come to a halt, we hit up with a double dose of adventure; not only had we planned to hike to Elfin Lakes and camp over in a desolate lodge with our good friends David and Julia, but it was also Han’s birthday on the Sunday. Elfin Lakes is located near Squamish, about an hour on the road North to Whistler, and the trail starts at a car park 20mins off the main highway down double dirt tracks. We had researched the trip quite extensively over the previous few weeks as we knew that this was not going to be a simple case of hiking, be welcomed at a cosy warm lodge with our own rooms, before settling in for the night and making the return trip, and thus we felt we were aptly prepared for the weekend. The camping lodge is actually located 11km from the start point, over often steep, dangerous, avalanche risk terrain, and operates on a first come first served basis with 30 wooden bed frames and slats available to hikers. Although the lodge had a couple of gas stoves, you need to take your own rollmats, sleeping bags, food and drink and entertainment on the hike, and thus it was the four of us started off at 8am laden with full backpacks and a small niggling thought of “what happens if we don’t get a bed”. But as trailpeak.com quotes “Few hikes put you in such exceptional terrain so quickly”, and a couple of hours into the hike we had passed enough people to feel relatively comfortable that a bed would be available, and started to really enjoy the snow hike through the winter wonderland that was opening...

Maui Part 2 – The Holiday We Envisaged Mar10

Maui Part 2 – The Holiday We Envisaged...

This is part two of my blog posting on our trip to Maui. The first part can be found here It says something about this enchanting island that after 4 days we hadn’t partaken on a ‘beach day’ yet; added to Han’s need for surf, sea and sand, this was doubly surprising. However, in a sun soaked snorkel swimming way, her wait was soon to be over. We had reconnaissanced the original debaucherous whale hunting turned touristy town of Laihana the previous evening, so wasted no time on our 5th day as we found ourselves walking in the early hours to the main beach strip a couple of kilometres away laden with the beach necessities; towels, frisbees, books, sun tan lotion, snorkel gear, snack food, juggling balls and a hope of swimming with turtles. We had heard a rumour that turtles prefer the early morning for their leisurely eating from the sea floor greenery (presumably they’re hungry after a good nights sleep), and so it was only a mere 5 minutes of setting the towels out in regimented British fashion that Han announced it was snorkelling time. I tried to warn Han that we should snorkel for the sights of the wonderful pacific fish and a sighting of a turtle would be a bonus, but I could tell she harvested ideas that turtles would come to her with gifts of exotic fruit and a pennant for conversation, and so it was after try one I could sense an emotion of disappointment that the turtles had not turned up to welcome us to their underwater domain. However we didn’t have to wait long, and a few hours later in the 75-80 degree Hawaiian heat on another reconnaissance mission, we finally swam with a turtle we named...

Maui – The Island of Adjectives Mar08

Maui – The Island of Adjectives

This is part one of my blog posting on our trip to Maui. The second part can be found here I didn’t know quite what to expect when first landing on the island of Maui in the Islands of Hawai’i, America’s 50th state (being annexed in 1898) – my preconceptions had it as a sandy holiday paradise with golden beaches, Hawaiian Leis thrown around your neck as you land off the plane with Mai Tais being drank overlooking the lapping waves. And although I found some of these thrown into our couple-holiday mix, I also discovered a metallurgical diverse, enchanting, natural paradise that surprised, exceeded and surprised me almost every day. My palindromic girlfriend Hannah (as my great uncle reminded me mere days before boarding) and I landed on a sunny wind swept Wednesday evening and were checked into the backpacker hostel of choice on the island of Maui – Banana Bungalow, in Wailuku. Although not sporting free bananas, as the name may suggest, it did sport a most welcome hot tub, kitchen facilities, free tours of the island and a great lively backpacker community. We had split our holiday into two very diverse separate sections, the first half discovering the wonders of the East part of the island; waking up in the early hours to catch beautiful sunrises, making tantalizing trips to turtle town (I’m not making this alliteration up), and drives down the scenic, car stopping-every-mile Road to Hana, with the second half being a very much relaxed, beach lazing, sun burning, stereotypically Hawaiian getaway in the West. And so it was only 12 hours after setting foot on the original Sandwich Isles, we were up, awake and wide eyed trekking the 3 mile journey from our hostel up through the lush green ‘Iao Valley to take in the natural wonder that is the ‘Iao Needle. Protruding from the fertile rain-heavy sun soaked valley is a 1200ft spine of rock that tradition has it was Maui’s daughters lover, a Merman who swam up the ‘Iao river, whom Maui turned to stone to shelter his daughter from worldly temptations (dads and their daughters hey). The area reminded me of Jurassic Park – no wonder as the opening scenes were indeed filmed on the island, as the helicopter soars through ‘Isla Sorna’ to drop of its passengers in a ‘land that time forgot’. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery Although an ultimately decisive battle had culminated in this spot in 1790, turning the rivers red from the blood of the stoic Maui warriors, we found the area very peaceful and tranquil, lush in vegetation and covered with greenery high up into the hills and cliffs surrounding the area. The final destination was most definitely worth a visit, however the trek up the coach-driven tourist heavy route was not, and so after a small hitch back to the main city of Kahului (where the main island airport resides, but now is generally considered a ‘functional’ town) we stocked up on food supplies and bussed it back to our hostel to relax, recharge and grab some small beach items to make an afternoon trip to the nearest beach worth visiting – another bus ride and small walk away….. 3 hours later and I started to get grumpy. ‘This beach is fine, the sand is nice, not many people are on it. Look nice white sand, oooo, nice white sand ….’ I complained and unconvincingly pleaded to Hannah. ‘But our map says the next one in 2 zillion miles is so much nicer’ retorts the ever-ready well-read Han. ‘Stupid tourist books’ I silently grumble. And so it was around 3pm, after walking 3 miles in flip flops down boring sun-pounding tarmacked roads we did indeed find ourselves watching the cool gnarly surfers, majestic wind surfers and funky new-age kite boarders cut shapes in the wind swept wave driven surf as...

HDR Playtime Feb26

HDR Playtime

Over the past 2-3 years I’ve started to invest a little more time in the art of photography; trying to capture that perfect shot that epitomises the feeling and scenery that I see infront of me, get the awe and wonder of nature into a little rectangular world for others to see, and to try and convey the natural beauty of some of the places that I’ve frequented on my travels. More often than not I fail quite miserably, but this hasn’t stopped me progressing and looking at new techniques to try and advance the craft. Which is why about a year ago a photo and corresponding article on HDR photography caught my attention. HDR (high dynamic range) photography is basically the art of taking 3 photos of the same scene, at different exposure levels, to capture the full dynamic range of colours. Or as wikipedia likes to say: “High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI or HDR) is a set of methods used in imaging and photography to allow a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods. HDR images can represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, from direct sunlight to faint starlight, and is often captured by way of a plurality of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter” In its basic functionality / my basic process flow it’s taking a photo 3 times, at different exposure levels, overlaying them in a nifty little program and playing with some levels to get your desired result. Around 90% of the time I find that I’m not sure if I like the HDR version more than the original, but now and again the new full dynamic ranging photo seems to work out beautifully and I’m...