October 2008 Archives

dean_tatooles.jpgDean Tatooles is an amazingly talented photographer and an iExplore customer.  He joined iExplore on an Antarctica excursion last winter and was kind enough to share some of his photographs from his trip with us. The entire iExplore staff was blown away by his beautiful panoramic shots; they did the (almost impossible) job of capturing the essence of a destination like Antarctica.  We wanted to get his take on travel photography, glean a few photography tips from him and talk briefly about his next iExplore excursion to Indochina. We hope you will enjoy our interview and we know you will love his photos.

CNN Travel Writer Chris Bach had a trip to Antarctica on his bucket list of ten things he wanted to do before he dies.  He came back and called Antarctica Awe-InspiringI know you recently went on our Antarctica tour, tell us your thoughts about the experience.
Antarctica was definitely on my list of places to photograph.  I set a goal personally to step on all seven continents before I turned 40.  I am traveling with iExplore to Southeast Asia in a couple weeks and will achieve that goal five years early.  It's funny, I thought Antarctica would be my last continent; however, Antarctica became more intriguing to me as I continued to research it.  Most people think of Antarctica as this white barren wasteland.  It is something completely different.  The colors down there are awe-inspiring and the photographic opportunities were boundless.   The sheer grandeur of the place and its majesty will leave you speechless.

antarctica_ship_dean_tatool.jpgI would imagine there would be great challenges to photographing Antarctica.  Tell me about it.
Photographing winter scenes is especially challenging because of the wide range of contrast in a scene.  Antarctica was particularly challenging because of the difference in tonality of the bright whites and dark deep blues.  I shoot predominantly in the 6x17 panoramic format. My camera equipment is bulky, heavy and difficult to set up.  I was fortunate to have several days of advantageous weather and lighting conditions in Antarctica, with not too much wind or snow.  There were days, however, when Antarctica's wrath reared its ugly head and made shooting very difficult.

What percentage of photos from a trip are pre-planned versus spur of the moment that you were inspired to take along the way?
That is one of the best questions anyone has ever asked me.  A very small percentage of my images are pre-planned.  I find that most of my best photographs are those which I stumble upon.  Notwithstanding, once I decide on a destination I immerse myself into as many photographic books as I can to view how other photographer "see" a scene.  Then, when on location, I try and get a different angle or perspective than other photographers have gotten.  Be unique.  Yes, I get the shot of the landmark from the well-known vantage point, but I also try to capture life on a day-to-day basis and capture common things that people might pass by and not really "see". 

I am going to Southeast Asia next.  I have already envisioned how I want to capture Angkor Wat, for example.  Everybody has seen the temple and knows what it looks like.  But from a panoramic standpoint, I would like to capture it early in the morning when the sun rises over the top and the towers reflect into the lotus ponds.  That's the way I see it.  Also, I know that there is substantial tree growth inside the temple walls, which will lend itself wonderfully to some intimate panoramic landscapes.

pyramids.jpgHow do you work with your travel partners like iExplore to ensure you have the flexibility to get the shots you want?
I don't like to travel with large groups for a number of reasons.  Large groups move around too fast and I need the time and flexibility to set up my shots.  iExplore has been very accommodating to my needs and has set me up with some fantastic private guides.  In certain circumstances a helicopter may be required and iExplore is always able to connect me with an able pilot who gets me where I need to be.

What is your favorite destination from a traveler's point of view and from a photographer's point of view?
It is truly hard to answer that question. I like all of the places I have traveled for different reasons.  If I had to pick one location from a traveler's perspective it would have to be Southern Africa, particularly Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.  The close proximity of the wildlife, unique culture and exposure to an area where you are not at the top of the food chain were all life-changing experiences for me individually. From a photographer's standpoint, I would say Antarctica because of its remoteness, desolation and sheer pristine beauty.  The ice formations alone could provide a photographer with a lifetime of material.

Have any tips for amateur photographers to get the best photos on their next adventure?
I still shoot film.  However, a lot of people are using digital SLR cameras these days, which are great. A digital SLR camera gives you the freedom to make adjustments on location to gain a better result.  I would suggest that if someone is serious about getting better pictures that they learn to take their camera off the automatic settings and learn to use the semi-manual or manual settings.  There are a number of classes that teach technique offered around the country, some of which are only one weekend day.  A photographer can learn basic techniques such as using "shutter priority" to stop animals in their tracks or smooth out a waterfall.  Another tip to someone wanting to get better pictures is to get closer to what you are shooting.  If you think you are close enough you probably are not! 
antarctica_blue_ice.jpgYou've said your hope is your work touches that sense of adventure in everyone and that viewers of your photographs will be transported to another time and place, even if its for just a moment. What time and place does your favorite photo transport you?
The Antarctica photo of the blue ice (above), is one of my favorite images.  It is hard to gain a perspective of how massive this ice flow was.   I generally don't like to have people or man-made objects in my photographs, but it might have been a good idea to have a zodiac in the frame to give the viewer a better sense of perspective.  Oh well, I got the shot I wanted and am very happy with it.  To me, this image transports me to another place in time every time I look at it.  In one word it is extraterrestrial.
Dean will be traveling to Indochina later this fall.  When he gets back we will be sure to touch base with him and share more photos and tips from Dean. In the meantime be sure to check out his online photo gallery.

Summiting Mount Rundle

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MtRundle.jpgYou really haven't experienced world class hiking until you have hiked through the Canadian Rockies.  Particularly, the Bow Valley between Banff and Lake Louise in Banff National Park, a short 90 minute drive from Calgary airport.   There are well-groomed trails for people of every experience level, from novice day trippers to experienced mountaineers.  But, there is one trail I want to highlight, the hike to the summit of Mount Rundle, one of the favorites in the park, which I did with my best friend James.
Mount Rundle is the tallest point in all of Banff National Park, at just under 10,000 feet of elevation.  It is a grueling 5,000 foot elevation gain to the summit, taking over 10 hours to complete the round trip (so get started early!!).  Not appropriate for beginners, it is an intermediate level day-hike that only requires a good pair of hiking boots and a set of walking sticks to deal with the steep walk up and down its lose scree slopes. Worth mentioning again, walking sticks are a must!!  Less so for the uphill climb, and more so to help you get down the steep, rocky, exposed slopes from the summit.  
george_banff.jpgThe trail starts from behind the golf course of the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and almost immediately turns straight up hill through dense forest.  After about two hours, and a series of switchbacks, you will finally clear the tree line and get your first impressive view of the region.  But, there is no rest for the weary, with another three hours of climbing over lose scree trails to the summit, endlessly uphill the entire way.  For those of you that can deal with the seemingly endless uphill scramble, you will be rewarded with absolutely stunning views of the Bow Valley, the distant Mount Assiniboine (one of the tallest peaks in Alberta at around 12,500 feet) and the town of Banff below.  And, did I mention looking down the 5,000 foot drop-off over the far side of the summit!!??
When you get back down (fully spent after your full day of hiking), I highly recommend driving over to the Vermillion Lakes near Banff, to get a postcard-worthy shot of Mount Rundle, reflecting in all of its glory over the still waters.  Quite a thrill to look back up to the summit and say, "hey, we were just all the way up there!".
This was my fifth trip to the Canadian Rockies, and it certainly ranks as one of my favorites.  I highly recommend it to all you peak baggers out there.  You will not be disappointed.

Spotlight on South Africa

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South Africa is a destination that is regularly in iExplore's Top 10 Best Selling Tours list.  Travelers continually select South Africa for the range of experiences available in one destination.  Whether it is exploring Cape Town, one of the world's most beautiful cities, touring the lush Cape Winelands, immersing yourself in the country's history and culture or seeking the Big Five on a safari there is something for every traveler in South Africa.

Our words could not do justice to this destination so check out our South Africa and learn why you should visit South Africa on an iExplore privately-guided tour.

Introducing the iExplore Travel Blog

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Welcome to the iExplore Adventure & Luxury Travel Blog. We are excited about the launch of this blog as it will give us another avenue to better communicate with passionate travelers.  We plan to publish posts about what's new at iExplore, interesting trends and news in the travel industry and also interviews with our travel partners and clients about their travel experiences.

We hope you will leave feedback in the comments section of our posts. If you have travel questions or areas you would like our experts to write about leave them here and we will do our best to address each and every comment or question.  


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