Month: March 2022

Five spectacular subjects for springtime photography

By Jamie Carter

From a sea of blue flowers and pink blossom to new life and an uptick in celestial activity, spring brings photographic opportunities galore

Flowers in bloom. Rushing waterfalls. The birth of new life. After a long winter, the beginning of spring is the ideal excuse to dust off your camera and get creative outdoors.

Nature comes alive in spring, with the longer days and warming temperatures leading to colorful sights such as wildflower displays and cherry blossoms, young animals frolicking, and even a little-known uptick in ‘space weather. Here are some of our top tips for taking full photographic advantage of the change from winter to spring…

Bluebell woods

Bluebell forest, taken at sunset in Micheldever Woods in Hampshire. Photo by Stuart Rouse – f/14 | 1.6s | ISO 100Micheldever Bluebells

A carpet of bluebells is an evocative image of spring, but like cherry blossoms, the season for capturing bluebells is short and sweet. They flower in April and May in the UK – home to over half the world’s bluebells – so you’re only going to get a short window to visit a bluebell wood to photograph them.

Although it’s a classic spring shot, bluebells can be tricky to capture. The options are endless. A wide-angle lens will help you create a dreamy scene, though you’ll need a very thick carpet of bluebells for that to work well. A telephotos lens can help you zoom in on a section of bluebell growth for a more luscious look. You can also attempt some macro shots of the flowers themselves. Close-ups are best done after rain when you can see droplets on the flowers, but you’ll likely have to be very patient because even a breath of wind can make a macro shot very difficult. 

Author tip:

Be really careful when in a bluebell wood because the flowers are very sensitive despite being perennials; they take many years to colonise a wood and if you stand on one it’s likely to die. So stick to paths and if attempting macro shots be very careful where you put your feet. There are actually two types of bluebells in the UK; the sweeter smelling British bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and the less scented Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica).

Three lambs running across a field. Photo by Kieran Metcalfe – f/6.3 | 1/1000s | ISO 1250

Lambs gamboling in meadows and ducklings following their parents across streams and rivers; both are classic springtime photos, but they’re not particularly easy to get. A mistake a lot of casual wildlife photographers make is standing up. For a more interesting point of view crouch down to the eye-line of the animal. That way you’ll get a more natural-looking shot.

What lens to use depends on how far away the wildlife is, of course, but count on at least a mid-telephoto lens such as 300mm. Once you’re in position you have another problem because young animals move fast! So you have two choices; use a really fast shutter speed to make the animal sharp (but the background likely blurred) or a slightly longer shutter speed – and a smaller lens aperture – to keep both the subject and the background reasonably sharp. Exact settings will depend on your lens. For ducklings, go near sunset for more chance of activity and both reflections and silhouettes. For lambs, try to capture them in mid-gambol and be careful not to oversaturate their pure-white wool. 

Author tip:

There are ethics to consider before you stake-out a young family of animals to photograph. The golden rule is never to disturb wildlife, and that applies as much in your local park or a farmer’s field as it does when on safari. Firstly, don’t wear luminous or garish clothing. Secondly, keep as still as you can. Thirdly – and perhaps most importantly – don’t get too close to them. Your focus should be on making yourself as invisible as possible. That way you won’t disturb your subject and you’ll also get more natural behaviour.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossom in Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Yuval Shoshan – f/4.5 | 1/100s | ISO 100

The sudden flowering of cherry trees is a sure sign that spring has sprung. Incredibly photogenic, you’ll find the beautiful, fleeting pink blossom across the world everywhere from Europe and Asia to North America. Surely one of the more iconic places to head to photograph cherry blossoms in Japan, where the sakura tends to bloom from the last week of March until the middle of April.

The fleeting flowering of the country’s thousands of cherry trees is a national obsession and there’s even a blossom forecast on the TV to track the blooms from south to north as spring unfolds. The most popular, and therefore most crowded, places to capture the sakura are Kyoto’s Philosopher’s Walk canal, Osaka’s Okawa River, and Tokyo’s many urban parks, though it’s much quieter – and just as impressive – in the southern state of Kyushu and even in South Korea, which have far fewer tourists. 

Author tip:

Since blossoming cherry trees are so bright they tend to work really well as foregrounds in nightscape photography. Easily reflecting any ambient light or moonlight, they can work well against a starry background, and thus also as the centrepiece of a star-trails composite photo. In manual mode and on a tripod, put your camera in front of the cherry tree and set it to ISO 800, the lowest f-number your lens has, and use a 30 second exposure. Make adjustments then take the same image repeatedly for at least an hour (put your camera on continuous mode and use a shutter release cable in the locked position). Then use the simple and free StarStaX software to produce a drag-and-drop composite photo. 

4 Northern Lights

The northern lights dance above the lighthouse in Andenes, Norway. Photo by Chris Rohner – f/2.0 | 2s | ISO 1000

Not many people know that the aurora borealis – also known as the Northern Lights – are at their most intense around the equinoxes in late September and late March. It’s because the axis of our planet is perpendicular to the Sun, which makes its solar wind – the cause of the optical phenomenon – more likely to push charged particles down the field lines of Earth’s magnetic field.

However, before heading for 66-69° North latitudes (or thereabouts) to pray for clear skies in northern Scandinavia, northern Canada, or Alaska for March ’20s vernal equinox do check the phase of the Moon. Displays tend to be easier to photograph away from a full Moon. Once you’re there the manual photography side of things is simple; wide-angle lens, tripod, 10-25 second exposures, ISO 800-1600, and infinity focus.

Author tip:

If you’ve always wanted to photograph the Northern Lights then get ready to start planning. We’re now entering a once-a-decade period when they’re going to be at their most frequent and intense. That’s because we’re in a new solar cycle and the Sun is waxing towards ‘solar maximum’, which will probably occur in mid-2025. The Sun has a 11 years cycle, with solar maximum being when the most sunspots are seen on its surface. That means more charged particles being hurled at Earth’s magnetic field, so more Northern Lights.

5 Waterfalls in full flow

The wonderful Buachaille Etive Mòr with the tumbling Coupal falls on a perfect spring day. Photo by Douglas Ritchie – f/16 | 4s | ISO 200

Like a lot of spring subjects, timing is everything if you want to capture a waterfall at full throttle. That’s mostly likely after heavy rain, of course, but there’s something else you want if you want to create that classic ‘milky’ motion. Clouds. Since you’re going to have to use a long exposure – between a second and two seconds – it massively helps if there is no direct sunlight on the waterfall, which instantly over-exposes your shot.

On a dark day, you can get away with stopping down your aperture (using a bigger f/ number) or using the shutter priority mode on your camera, and even using a circular polarizer. All will reduce the amount of light coming into your camera, but the easiest technique is to use a 1-stop or 2-stop Neutral Density (ND) filter, which lets you increase the exposure time.

Author tip:

If you want to capture something special alongside a waterfall then head for Skógafoss on the Skógá River in the south of Iceland. This 60 metre waterfall is south-facing, which means three optical phenomenon are possible; rainbows (and even double rainbows!) in its spray, the Northern Lights behind it at night (best seen between September and March), and Moonbows or lunar rainbows when a full Moon is low in the sky. If you’re really lucky you can get the latter two together!

Jamie Carter is a journalist and author focusing on stargazing and astronomy, astrophotography, and travel for Forbes Science, BBC Sky At Night magazine, Sky & Telescope, Travel+Leisure, and The Telegraph.

Jamie Carter

Ideas for Getting out of a Creative Rut

by Karen Foley

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I mean look at Groundhog’s Day. Every year furry aficionados gather on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the freezing cold at sunrise and look to a cute little rodent named Phil to tell them if there will REALLY be 6 more weeks of winter. Trust me folks, regardless of what Phil wants you to believe, there is still 6 weeks left of winter, and nothing he says or does is going to change that!

As photographers we have a tendency to fall back on our favorites too – a favorite lens, a favorite subject, or a favorite style of shooting – and then we cannot understand why our art is not growing and evolving as fast as we would like.

To break free of the creativity hamster wheel (get the rodent reference?), use this Groundhog’s Day to try something new to spur your artistic growth.

Imitation is flattery

We all want our art to be original, but the idea of finding inspiration from the past is an age-old tradition. Every art student studies art history and is encouraged to go to museums to view and even sketch masterpieces of old. Use that same concept to study other photographers to hone your skills and gather some inspiration.

Look here on Dreamstime.com at the Editor’s Choice area, or choose your favorite topic and sort by best selling images. Study your favorite pictures and ask yourself:

1)What is it about this image that I like? This could be the composition, lighting, color scheme, special effects, etc.

2)How can I use that in my next image?

3)How could I recreate this image?

4)What would I like to do differently to this image?

5)How could I cover the same topic in a completely new way?

Enter Assignments

Every month Dreamstime.com hosts a new assignment focusing on a different topic or theme for stock photos. Challenge yourself to cover every single assignment from as many different angles as possible – you have up to 10 entries in each contest. Then go back afterwards and look at how others covered the same topic – see which ones won and look at those that were voted highly by the contributor community and ask yourself the same questions as above. If you have the time, try your hand at recreating your images using the answers you glean.

Challenges

Speaking of challenges, try your hand at a 365-52-12 challenge this year.

365 Day Challenge is just what the name implies. Challenge yourself to take a picture (or video or illustration) a day for 365 consecutive days. Some people have taken this to mean take a picture of the same place/theme/topic everyday, while others take it to mean just create an image of SOMETHING everyday.

A 52 Week Challenge takes a little of the daily pressures off while still providing a creative jolt to the system. In this challenge, you have a new theme every week designed to motivate you to shooting or drawing.

Dogwood Studio has created a 52 week challenge that can be started at anytime during the year. Choose the original version, or the advance challenge or combine the two to meet your own needs.

Or make up your own list of weekly themes entirely. Shoot a single image, a series of images over a few days, our use this as your guide to shoot daily around one theme or topic for a full week.

Create your own 12 month challenge. Having a full month to cover each different theme allows for lots more time to develop and explore the theme or concept. Google the topic of 12 month photography challenges to get a suggested list of themes – or make up your own.

Every month has one or more holidays, falls within a season, is either hot or cold, will have food/drink specific to that time of year, etc. etc. etc. Anything can be used as your monthly theme. Try shooting through out the month to tell a more complete story. See how creatively you can cover one single topic or theme.

Exercises

Creativity is a lot like muscles in your body – the more you use it the stronger it will get. So set up a schedule to try one or more of these creativity exercises on a regular basis.

1)Take 12. Stand in one spot and take 12 unique images of what is around you without moving.

2)Take 10. Choose one small object and take 10 unique or abstract images.

3)Take 4. Shoot one subject framing it in each of the four corners of the image without moving locations.

4)Make it artificial. Try restricting yourself to shooting for a week (or day or month) with a lens, or in a location, or at a time, or using a composition style, or any other restriction you can think.

5)Shoot a roll. Limit yourself to shooting only a “roll of film” (24 or 36 exposures) during any outing.

6)Take baby steps. Choose a number of steps (5,10,100) and shoot one picture for every step you take.

7)Take your subject. Take the same object to different locations and see how creatively you can shoot it.

8)Use a Favorite. Recreate your favorite photo. Or take a photo from an ad or a magazine and see if you can recreate it exactly.

9)Shoot only B&W.

10) SOOC. Shoot only straight-out-of-camera without post processing to force yourself to control all the aspects of the image in camera.

Hopefully one or more of these ideas can get your creativity juices flowing again for this Groundhog’s Day and beyond.

Photo credits: Gow927Karen FoleyKeantian.

New Places to Experience Unlimited-Luxury® in Mexico This Winter

Travel insights from Apple Vacations

This time of year, escape the winter blues and adventure to AMR™ Collection’s newest resorts in Mexico. This winter alone, AMR™ Collection is offering three all-new ways for adults to experience Unlimited-Luxury®, and add some anticipation to their 2022 planner

Breathless Cancun Soul Resort & Spa

Since opening its doors on December 7, the all-new Breathless Cancun Soul Resort & Spa has caught the eye of chic travelers searching for their next beach retreat. Singles, couples, and friends alike will want to experience the Hotel Zone’s hottest arrival. From its two towers, each of the 429 junior suites and suites gazes out at Nichupte Lagoon or the Caribbean Sea, with nearly half giving oceanfront views.

Dial down the energy and unplug at another highlight: the two-story relax Spa by Pevonia®. Hydrotherapy, a sauna, steam room, juice bar, and treatments like the Tropical Escape Body Wrap set the tone to full bliss. Ramp it back up to renewed “Energy” at the activity pool, or wait for sunset for the fire pit plaza to come roaring to life. Beach parties, acrobatic shows, and live music keep the vibe vibrant all night.

For the best panoramas, though, head to the top of xcelerate Tower. Your clients will go for the backdrops—the resort’s most breathtaking—but stay for the scene. Daytime parties, DJ-spun tunes, and a rooftop infinity pool make it the place to be.

Secrets Moxche Playa del Carmen—Two Resorts in One!

Located on a white-sand beach ten minutes from the famous Quinta Avenida, Secrets Moxché Playa del Carmen and resort-within-a-resort Secrets Impression Moxché will welcome their first guests just in time for Valentine’s Day, on February 11. Suites designed to create an atmosphere of earthy sophistication add refinement to romance, while unexpected touches like a rolling in-room bar hint at Secrets’ fun side.

Eleven restaurants in total, including three at Impression, means plenty of variety for all guests, encompassing the flavors of Southeast Asia, France, Mexico, and more. Nightly entertainment at Moxché Theatre continues the global experience, as does the spa. Couples can make an afternoon of wellness; shared treatments take them on a “journey.”

Over at the boutique Secrets Impression Moxché, a rooftop pool, along with lounge and restaurant, brings the exclusivity as it serves up 360° of ocean panoramas. Open only to guests staying in an Impression suite or villa, access is just one of the upscale perks. Private concierge service—plus butler service for higher room categories you’ll earn 2% more on when booking through Apply Vacations—taco and tequila tastings, and upgraded amenities prove the luxury really is limitless.

Of course, that’s all in addition to the standard inclusions of the Unlimited-Luxury® that keeps sun-seekers coming back AMR™ Collection. The gourmet, reservation-free dining. The pool and beach wait service for top-shelf drinks. The endless entertainment. Nearly everything you’ll find on-property is included, leaving your clients free to spend their getaway doing what they like—without ever worrying about costs.

Booking with Apple Vacations gives your customers even more peace of mind. Secure an Exclusive Nonstop Vacation Flight for an extra 2% bonus commission that enhances your client’s experience. Roundtrip airport transfers with Amstar DMC are always included, taking care of getting there in comfort, while Travel Protection Plus lets clients get back the full value of their vacation (minus the plan cost) if they cancel—for any reason. Extensive medical and quarantine coverage provides extra reassurance.

So what will this winter be like for your customers? Will they bundle up against the cold, dreaming of getting away? Or will they live their best vacation life under the Mexican sun? Learn more with Apple Vacations today.

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Dominican Republic, Jamaica and More Caribbean Destinations Update COVID-19 Rules

DESTINATION & TOURISM  RICH THOMASELLI  FEBRUARY 26, 2022

Beautiful Caribbean beach on Saona Island, Dominican Republic. (photo via czekma13 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The Dominican Republic has become the latest nation to drop its COVID-19 restrictions, as the popular tourist destination joins many of its Caribbean Island countries is welcoming travelers back to bolster tourism.

Despite not meeting a previously announced target of having 70 percent of the country’s adults vaccinated against the virus, the Dominican Republic government nonetheless rescinded public health restrictions, according to Reuters News Service.

That includes the mask mandate as well as vaccine checks in public areas such as restaurants and hotels.

“It’s time to recover all our freedoms and way of life,” Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader said on social media and in a televised address.

Health Minister Daniel Rivera said a worldwide drop in positive cases and in the death rate convinced Dominican Republic officials to rescind the restrictions.

The D.R. was not the only Caribbean nation to start loosening COVID-19 rules in order to boost tourism, the lifeblood of most island countries.

Visitors to Jamaica will no longer need the Travel Authorization, and travel-related quarantine measures beginning March 1.

Children 12 years and older will still need to provide a negative COVID-19 test (antigen or PCR) conducted within 72 hours prior to the date of travel at check-in.

The island of St. Maarten also has a March 1 target date to transition from pandemic status to endemic. All fully vaccinated visitors or those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last nine months no longer have to show proof of a negative test upon arrival. Unvaccinated visitors will still be required to provide a negative PCR test within 48 hours arrival or an antigen test within 24 hours.

Two weeks after Aruba eased its rules on international visitors, officials said they are lifting regulations that will allow restaurants and businesses to return to normal operating hours and with no limits on capacity.

For a deeper dive on new entry protocols in the Caribbean, check out the podcast by TravelPulse island experts Brian Major and JetSetSarah for more information.

For the latest insight on travel around the world, check out this interactive guide:

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