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USA Landscape Photography Road Trip


“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Arthur Miller

After my first road trip around the American South West with my wife in 2008, I was hooked by the immense landscapes this region has to offer.digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to America USA American South West Canyonlands hosted by Stephen Studd

I spent all of that first trip photographing the landscapes for an agency, I was captured  by the changes in light and magnificence of the vistas. I knew this part of the world would be one that I would return to over the years.

My most recent trip here was in September 2017, spending 3 weeks photographing the landscapes for a commission and another 2 weeks leading a group of photographers on a photography tour I run. My circular route which started in Las Vegas, took me on roads that are as straight as the eye can see to small friendly towns, and through some of the world’s best desert scenery in the world

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is aptly named, the red sandstone formations give the area a warm fiery colouring even in bright sunlight.USa 2017 Valley of Fire Nevada digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to America USA American South West Canyonlands hosted by Stephen StuddIt can get pretty hot here too, but the warm hued landscapes are worth the heat, especially near to sunset when the place comes on fire.

Just a couple of hours drive from the Valley of Fire is Zion National Park, one of my favourite places for photography. In the lower part of Zion you literally get neck ache looking up at the towering peaks of the mountains from the Virgin River which flows through this immense scenery.USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studd

However the top part of Zion is my favourite spot. I took a series of photo’s of the Navajo sandstone rock formations back in 2008 which won an award in the landscape category of the International Photography Awards.

Since then I have spent much time photographing in this area as I am fascinated by the unique Navajo sandstone landscape.

digital photography holidays vacations tours workshops to America USA American South West Canyonlands hosted by Stephen Studd

Another few hours drive away sees you at Bryce Canyon which despite its name, is not a canyon, but a collection of giant natural amphitheaters. Bryce is distinctive for its hoodoos, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. Bryce sits at a much higher elevation than Zion and is much cooler as the rim at Bryce varies from 2,400 to 2,700 m, due to the remote location it doesn’t get the crowds that other parks do.

digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to America USA American South West Canyonlands hosted by Stephen Studd

Sunrises here are particularly special.

USA travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studdas the hoodoos glow in the morning sunlight.

USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen StuddAs Utah is +1 hour ahead in time from Nevada and Arizona, sunrises are at a very comfortable 7.00am in September, no excuses for getting up for these views.

digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to America USA American South West Canyonlands hosted by Stephen Studd

Horseshoe Bend near Page in Arizona is another favourite place for the landscape photographer, especially at sunset.

USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studd

Again in Page is Antelope Slot Canyon in Navajoland, a place that is really high on the photographers bucket list. Places are limited to just 6 people for the photography tours in Upper Antelope Canyon, with only 2 tours a day they can sell out years in advance. I have been lucky to have photographed here twice and already have a booking for 5 places for the September 2018 tour.

Photographing Antelope Slot Canyon has been one of the highlights of my professional photography career, the images you capture here are truly awesome, with the ever changing light bouncing around the canyon walls that have been weathered into beautiful shapes and patterns over eons of time.

Just 120 miles from Page is Monument Valley Tribal Park in Utah, the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation and a place I had always wanted to visit from an early age, it doesn’t let you down once you get there and it’s easy to see why it became an iconic symbol of the American West. My first visit was in 2008 when there was no hotel there, we camped under a cloudless sky looking at the Milky Way all night and I knew it was a place I would return to again and again.Monument Valley USA American travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen StuddThe skies here can be outrageously moody.USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen StuddIn a very synchronistic way that always seem to happen on Navajo Land, I have teamed up with a Navajo friend who has taken me way off road to a place only accessible with a Navajo guide, this has been the highlight on the photo tour I run here. The drive is totally amazing going over terrain that only a local would be confident doing, but once at the top of one of the mesa’s the panoramic views of the sandstone formations from a distance bathed in warm evening light are breath taking.Monument Valley USA American travel landscape photography toursAs for the desert night skies high up from this vantage point, you can see the Milky Way and a billion stars as there is no light pollution here. The sunrises from up here too are a landscape photographers dream.

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It’s always hard to leave Monument Valley and the amazing landscapes, but 180 miles drive away you reach yet another photographers bucket list location the Grand Canyon from the East side with its jaw dropping views.USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen StuddThe Grand Canyon is world famous for the light, which photographs well whatever the weather conditions are. I personally prefer real moody scenes as they really add drama to photographs,USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studdthe same scene can change within a very short space of time, making it worthwhile to stop and photograph the ever changing views that appear in front of your lens._MG_3669.jpgThere are so many great turn outs to stop at along the south rim meaning that you don’t have to walk far for stunning photographs.

USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studd

There is also an excellent free shuttle bus that goes to the main view points, that start way before sunrise, which is excellent news for photographers.

Historic Route 66 was my next stop on the circle route back to Vegas, which takes in USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen StuddAmericana and old-school kitsch._MG_4040-EditHackberry stores literally in the middle of nowhere is sure worth a stop on the way back,USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studdas is the strange little town of Chloride, those that have been there will know what I mean!USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studd

Taking this 14 day circular route from Las Vegas it is possible to photograph every day of the road trip, spending a few nights at the best locations, with plenty of sunrise and sunset shots along the way. There are relatively short drives on quiet roads, the longest drive I ever did in between locations was 3 hours, but still stopped on the way for some unique American shots.

digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to America USA American South West Canyonlands hosted by Stephen Studd upper antelope canyonThe one thing you will need for a two week road trip is plenty of storage space to back up all the photographs you will take. USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen StuddInstead of heading back to the madness of Vegas after this nature immersion I like to stay in Boulder City, Nevada. On the way you pass the Hoover Dam, worthy of a quick visit. Boulder is a small compact city that you can walk around and has some fantastic places to eat and craft beer micro breweries. From here it’s only a short drive to Las Vegas airport to fly home.USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen StuddThere’s great value to be taken from photography road-tripping as they are not only full USA America Nevada Utah Arizona south west travel landscape photography tours workshops holidays vacations 2018 2019 with Stephen Studd

of wonderful adventures, but also give you space for new ideas and help you improve your landscape photography skills, and you’ll come away with powerful compelling photo’s and a whole new way of seeing the world.

CAMERA EQUIPMENT ESSENTIALS: Sturdy tripod as it can get windy, remote release, ND soft graduated filters, ND filters, spare memory cards, selection of lenses with lens hoods, including a fast wide angle lens if you intend to do any astro-photography. Plus of course back up hard drives, laptop/tablet.


I RUN LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY ROAD TRIPS in South West USA each September, the next one starting on September 9th 2018. Maximum 4 guests only, with just 1 place left. Full details and itinerary can be found on my website HERE

I also lead travel and landscape photography tours and workshops in Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Wales & England: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com


STAY CONNECTED:
Facebook: DigitalPhotographyHolidays
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Twitter: @PhotographyHols
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Why I Love Photographing Cambodia

I first travelled to Cambodia in 1999 and it was the first place after visiting countless countries as a travel photographer to truly capture my heart. I have been returning to Cambodia ever since this first visit and I am still truly in love with the country.

The reason I originally travelled to Cambodia was of course to visit the vast and sublime Angkor Wat complex.

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations workshops photo tours to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

However it was the friendly and charming nature of the Cambodian people that so quickly stole my heart.

South East Asia Cambodia Siem Reap Angkor Wat temple complex UNESCO World Heritage site portrait of Cambodian Khmer old woman with traditional headscarf digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to Myanmar Burma Cambodia

During my early visits travel around the country was incredibly slow going. Quite often I would find myself clinging on to the back of a motorbike for hours on end as the bike balanced on the banks between paddy fields, slowly picking its way to a far destination promising unique treasures such as deities carved in river beds on sacred mountains.

Digital travel photography holidays to Cambodia ANgkor Wat Asia hosted by Stephen Studd photographer

Nowadays the roads and transport have greatly improved, opening up more of this rustic and unspoilt country.

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays photo tours vacations workshops to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

Despite the improvements to roads, it is still very rare to see other tourists anywhere but the hot spots around Angkor. The bulk of the country remains undeveloped with red dust tracks

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays photo tours vacations workshops to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

and rice paddies peppered with the tall spikes of sugar palms.

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations workshops photo tours to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

Combined with the traditional wooden Khmer houses that rest on stilts and the occasional passing ox-cart

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays photo tours vacations workshops to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

this landscape is rich with photographic gems offering a literal plethora of amazing locations for photography.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Myanmar, Burma, Vietnam, hosted by Stephen Studd

The coast of Cambodia boasts amazing sunrises and sunsets

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays photo tours vacations workshops to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

and small towns like Kep, famous for the crab market, are places to head for at sunset to see the days fresh catch hauled back to shore.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Myanmar, Burma, Vietnam, hosted by Stephen Studd

I have been taking photographic groups to Cambodia since 2012 and one thing that I hear being said again and again is “I can’t believe we are the only ones here”.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations photo tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat Asia hosted by Stephen Studd

Cambodia still feels fresh and vibrant in comparison to its tourist weary neighbours and moves at a gentle slower pace.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Myanmar, Burma, Vietnam, hosted by Stephen Studd

For the discerning travel and landscape photographer Cambodia has it all and in my opinion is Asia’s best kept photographic secret.

Digital travel photography holidays vacations workshops tours to  Cambodia Angkor Wat, Burma, Myanmar, Vietnam,  Wales the Gower, Bluebell woods of Gloucestershire UK


I run travel and landscape photography holidays and tours in Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam the USA & UK.
Please visit the website for full itineraries and dates of tours: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com


Stay connected:
Facebook: DigitalPhotographyHolidays
Instagram: @digitalphotographyholidays
Twitter: @PhotographyHols

Google +: +Digitalphotographyholidays

 


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Photographing pre-sunrise & post sunset

It always amazes me when on travel and landscape photography shoots how people react to photographing a sunrise or sunset. At popular locations near these times the place can be really busy with excitable people. The main event happens and as soon as the last slither of the sun sets or first slither of the sun rising, the place becomes quiet and deserted as most people will have left rather quickly.

The after show is where the party is at for me. Once the sun has set, wait and watch the skies and the bounced around atmospheric light play on the landscape. A stillness seems to reappear that hasn`t been felt since dawn. This twilight can last for a while so patience is needed, a good tripod as exposures will be long and it is important to move your camera to manual focus.

Germany, Fussen, Alps reflected in Lake Forggensee, dawn

The shot above was taken about half an hour after sunset in Germany with the Alps in the background at pretty much my default  ISO of 100, when using my tripod.  Aperture in this case was f11 with exposure @4 seconds and lens 35mm. I also used a 0.3 ND grad filter to bring the sky and lake together exposure wise. (In this case a 0.3 as sky and foreground were pretty well matched as the sun had set half an hour earlier)

There is also a pre-show event the time between night and sunrise. This one usually has far less attendees and has its own light and colours in the sky and play on the landscape and is generally much stiller and quieter.

digital travel photography holidays vacations tours to Burma myanmar hosted by Stephen Studd, Bagan temples

Myanmar (Burma): Bagan – sunrise  ISO 100  f20 @ 16sec  ND 0.6 (2 stop) graduated filter

Both need the same equipment and patience to photograph but they are equally a joy to photograph (though on cold mornings the pre-sunrise shoot can be tough to get up for!) The main pleasure at these times of day for me is in the sky lottery, what colours are going to be produced? how long will it last? is it going to completely cloud over? When the conditions all come together a joy fills the heart and you know instinctively that you have the shot and walk away with a spring in your step.

You will need a torch, to get you to your location pre sunrise or away post sunset, it also helps you with your camera dials in low level light conditions. A tripod and shutter release cable are needed and I always use mirror lock on my camera as exposures can be long and you don’t want camera shake. I use the cameras spirit level which helps me get those horizons straight. If you do use autofocus, move it to manual, as autofocus struggles to work in the darker conditions, I always shoot in RAW mode too.

Depending on where you are photographing on the planet determines the length of the after or pre show party. In the tropics you generally only get a maximum of half an hour pre sunrise or after sunset. The point from basically photographing in the dark as the shot below to sunrise daylight happens in about 15 minutes, so you have to be ready and quick to react to the fast changing light.

digital travel photography holidays tours to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Marrakech and Gower Wales hosted by Stephen Studd photographer myanmar hosted by Stephen Studd

Cambodia: Angkor Wat sunrise. ISO 100 – f8 @ 30sec

I’m often asked whether I prefer sunrises or sunsets, I much prefer sunrises as the lazy photographers are not out of bed and it is always stiller, calmer, more peaceful and accompanied by the sound of birds waking up and filling the air with song. Which do you prefer?

Go out and enjoy these spectacular times of day, you will usually have them to yourself, they still the mind and fill the soul with joy.


I run travel and landscape photography holidays and tours in Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and the USA.

I also run landscape photography workshops and weekends in the Gower, Wales and Bluebell woods photography workshops in Gloucestershire, please visit the website for full itineraries and information: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com

Newsletter subscribers receive special offers throughout the year on my travel photography holidays and landscape photography workshops, you can subscribe here

‘May the light be with you’



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