Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake

 

DSC_4056This large lake is a prominent feature on maps of Cambodia. Its water levels and volume change dramatically from the wet to dry seasons, filled and drained by the ebb and flow of the Tonle Sap River and its confluence with the mighty Mekong. The size of the lake swells to nearly 5 times its dry season size during the rainy season. We went here based on the recommendation of our AirBNB host, Thony, and it’s unique ecosystem and water culture were a complete surprise to Sheri and me. DSC_4119The lake is only 15 km. from Siem Reap, but the roads are only partially paved and took 45 minutes to get there in our tuk-tuk. Our driver brought us to a harbor late in the afternoon where we bought our $20 tickets per person and proceeded to our boat. We later found out that this price is negotiable depending on the boat operator. The boat launch reminded me of our trip up the Little Yangtze River in China; lots of boats trying to dock somewhere that could barely accommodate them all. Continue reading

Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor

Cambodia was our first destination in Southeast Asia. At the time, when I made the flight arrangements, I didn’t see any compelling reason to go to Phnom Penh. I figured we would see more than enough temples throughout Asia and the experience would be similar to Siem Reap, the town closest to the Angkor complex of temples. We only scheduled two nights and three days for Cambodia, and in hindsight, we could easily have afforded to stay longer. Cambodia was probably the least expensive place we have visited so far in Southeast Asia. DSC_4328Tourist who used to flock to Thailand for the travel bargains are now going to Cambodia instead. For me, it seems to offer more of the underdeveloped rural experience than some of the more modern Asian countries.

After reading horror stories about people crossing the border from Thailand, we decided to fly directly to Siem Reap. And although flying into the major airports allows you the convenience of getting a visa upon arrival, we opted to get our visa online while we were in Australia. We waited until just 4 days before our scheduled arrival to get our visa, but they were very fast processing it, so I had it within 2 days of applying for it. Although they are fast, I don’t recommend waiting until the last minute. We printed two copies as instructed and when we arrived, having our visas beforehand saved us from waiting in a long queue to get one on arrival. Continue reading

RTW Camera Gear Finalized

d7200After several months of painstaking research and careful consideration of weight limitations and current equipment, I finally decided on my camera gear. If you’re not familiar with my criteria, you might want to read my other post on travel photo gear. My primary body will be the Nikon D7200. It’s bigger than I originally wanted, but is the best compromise between the functionality I needed, weight and image quality. The D7200 will work with all my existing Nikon equipment so I don’t have to go out and get all new gear specific to a new system. I’m also very familiar with the user interface so I won’t have much of a learning curve. It won’t perform as well in low light as a full-frame sensor camera, such as the Sony Alpha 7 series, but it’s a whole lot better than my previous D300 body. Plus, it has full 1080p video saving me from carrying a separate camcorder.

Continue reading

Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod

After trying out the MeFOTO Aluminum Backpacker Tripod, I decided to return it, spend a little more and get the Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod. I know that in my review of the MeFOTO I tried to justify not getting a carbon fiber tripod because of the extra expense over an equivalent aluminum tripod, but there was something I didn’t take into account. Carbon fiber is stiffer and doesn’t resonate like aluminum. Weighing in at 1 lb. 14.5 oz. (862 g.), it’s 11 oz. less than the MeFOTO and is helpful in reducing the total weight of my photo backpack. So here’s what I’ve discovered so far about this tripod. I’ll be making some comparisons to the MeFOTO, so bear with me.

THE GOOD

The MeFOTO and the Sirui target a similar audience: travelers looking for a lightweight tripod solution. However, a tripod is more than just its own weight. It must be steady and support the weight placed on it. The Sirui T-025X uses carbon fiber tubing versus aluminum. The carbon fiber tubes are a slightly smaller diameter, but with nearly the same tubing wall thickness. The legs each have 5 sections and fold 180° for compact storage just like the MeFOTO. However, the carbon fiber legs are stiffer than the aluminum ones and they don’t exhibit the resonant vibrations I get with the aluminum legs. The smallest diameter leg sections are where the carbon fiber really shows its stiffness and dampening ability. Even with weight hanging from the center hook, there was hardly any bending or flexing in the legs.

The Sirui’s center column is removable. Even with the center column installed, if I move my camera slightly when mounted on the Sirui, it doesn’t transfer that movement down into the legs. Not something I could say about the MeFOTO. Wind induced vibrations are also reduced, and since the center column is removable, without it, vibrations are almost non-existent. Eliminating unwanted vibrations is one of the major reasons I went with carbon fiber over aluminum. The removable center column also means a minimum height of 10.2″ versus 16.75″ for the MeFOTO whose center column isn’t removable. Good news for those needing to shoot low angles or macro photography. Continue reading

MeFOTO Aluminum Backpacker Tripod

I did a lot of research before buying this tripod. I read all the negative reviews and asked questions. And I finally chose this tripod. What were my criteria? The tripod must allow me to take tack-sharp long-exposures. It has to be light. It has to be fairly sturdy. It has to pack down small. And it has to use my existing camera plates and L-brackets. Why not carbon fiber? Carbon fiber weighed 4 ounces less and cost $100 more.

A little background so you know I’m not just a casual user. I shoot professionally. I have quite a bit of equipment including 4 other tripods. So why would I need another one? I have a large tripod which is a Gitzo G1220 MkII with an Arca Swiss B-1 MonoBall Head and RRS flip-lock quick release. Another tripod was my “travel” tripod. It’s a Gitzo G026 with a Kirk BH-3 Ball Head. The photo of the three tripods compares the MeFOTO to my two Gitzo tripods. You can see how the MeFOTO is very small in comparison to my other ones. It met the criteria for packing down small, however, I have one little complaint that I’ll mention later. Continue reading

Pacsafe Camsafe Venture V16 Camera Slingpack

Pacsafe Camsafe Venture V16 Camera SlingpackSince there doesn’t seem to be an ideal backpack for our travels, I thought that maybe I should concentrate on the expensive things that should be protected. I still like the idea of anti-theft bags and decided that I should try another Pacsafe product after giving such a poor review of the Venturesafe™ 45L GII Travel Backpack. I’m glad to say that this bag is much better than the previous one I reviewed. I think this one will be the one to go with me around the world.

I looked at the comparably-sized Pacsafe Camsafe V17 Camera Backpack (Black) and the slightly larger Pacsafe Camsafe V25 Camera Backpack (Black). Both had very similar features, however, because I already will be using a backpack as my main bag, this sling bag is narrow enough that it could be awkwardly hung in front of me between my other backpack straps when I need to carry both bags for more than just a few minutes. To begin, let’s start with what I like about this bag.

THE GOOD

This camera bag has a 16 liter capacity and can hold a full-size DSLR with a mounted lens along with a second lens. It could also easily accommodate a mirrorless system with room to spare. Since I’ll be bringing a Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 and a 12-24mm f/4 lenses, the size was perfect. This bag is geared for the more casual photographer and not a pro, so if you plan on bringing something larger and faster, such as 70-200mm f/2.8, you may have to reconfigure this bag, carry the big lens in a pouch in the main compartment of this bag, or simply find a different bag. The main compartment is divided mid-way by a drawstring closure, that can be opened up to make it one long compartment. The main compartment is big enough to also carry my large 100×150 filter bag with filter holder and adapter rings, as well as enough clothes and toiletries for a 2 -3 day excursion. Continue reading

Travel photo gear

When I’m shooting for a client locally, I’m not really concerned with the same things as when I’m traveling and taking photos along the way. These are different situations and they call for different equipment. When looking for travel cameras and photo gear, here’s what I consider important:

Quality is paramount

There’s not much point in taking photos if they’re not the best quality available today. Photo quality isn’t determined by the resolution or the camera processor, but by the glass that you shoot through. Good quality lenses make better photos, so I stick with well-respected German or Japanese brands. I explain this in much more detail at Choosing photo equipment.

Resolution is important

Medium format equipment these days can produce 50 megapixel images. Most digital SLRs are between 24 and 36 megapixels now. Even point and shoot cameras can capture 18 megapixels or more. Even though I just said in the previous paragraph that resolution does equate to quality, it is important, because a higher resolution image allows more flexibility for cropping and manipulation. So if that art director doesn’t want all that foreground that you’ve included in the shot, they can simply crop the photo and not sacrifice too much resolution to get only what they need. A low resolution image can’t be cropped much without some pixelation occurring. For what I’m doing, 20 megapixels is the minimum. Continue reading