Category: Travel Photography

Flickr Pro: 25% off

For me, Flickr has been and continues to be a great platform for sharing photos amongst photographers. Right now, they are offering 25% off Pro accounts.

I don’t mind paying for a Flickr Pro account as it gives unlimited space and, even more importantly, no ads.

Have a look at my Flickr site and, if you think it will be helpful as a portfolio site or a way to share your great photos with a larger audience, here’s the coupon code to get your 25% off: 25in2019 or here’s a link for the same 25% savings:

Have a wonderfully festive holiday!

Adobe Portfolio – a LrM pleasant surprise!

Adobe PortfolioSince drinking the Adobe Kool-Aid and succumbing to their monthly subscription for Lightroom CC Mobile, I’ve discovered that it is, in fact, a pretty good deal. It may be that I’m trying to self-justify my decision, but the skeptic in me is beginning to see the value in this purchase.

Lightroom CC Mobile – NOT Lightroom CC and NOT Lightroom Classic

To be clear, I purchased the CAD 6.49/month (USD 4.99) subscription to Lightroom CC Mobile (LrM) – essentially Lightroom for iPad and iPhone. This is different from what Adobe shows on their website. They have the…

  • Lightroom plan (USD 9.99/mo) which is an emasculated version of Lightroom Classic with 1TB of storage. This allows you to do everything in the cloud, but with a stripped-down version of Lr;
  • Photography Plan (USD 9.99/mo) – the full version of Lr Classic (or Lightroom CC) with the full version of Photoshop, but with only 20GB of storage. (Note: This might actually be worth it if it came with 100GB of storage instead of the paltry 20GB); and
  • Photography Plan with 1TB of storage (USD 19.99/mo) – a bit too rich for my blood as that translates to over $25/month Canadian!

At half the base price, I think I’m getting a deal with Lr CC Mobile when combined with my old standalone version of Lightroom 6 (more on that below). As you may have seen from my photographs of Ethiopia, using the raw and hdr-raw capture built into LrM results in nothing short of excellent photographs. Being able to edit those raw files on the fly using iPhone or iPad is a tremendous advantage when travelling. LrM on iPad is also a very comfortable and productive way of editing photos sitting in my living room. Although not quite as fast as working on my laptop and not as precise when using the sliders, holding an iPad and using my finger or an Apple Pencil is simply more comfortable.

As somewhat of a bonus, along with my subscription came Adobe Portfolio and 100GB of cloud storage, neither of which I thought much of when I first signed up. Over the last few weekends, I have been working with Portfolio. Through trial and error, a few trips to the Help site and a few minutes of Terry White’s YouTube videos (give me print that I can skim read, not videos that I have to wade through!!), I’ve managed to create a Portfolio website I’m proud of. Creating and editing the pages not as ‘intuitive’ as they indicate, but once I got the hang of it, I can now create pages confidently and creatively, even if I do forget where ‘this toggle’ and ‘that setting’ are.

The 100GB? I thought, “Ya right, as if I’d need all that.” Well, I’m now at 86GB of my 100 with about 2,500 raw photos. It has allowed me to put my best photos into the cloud for easy access at any time. I find it much more intuitive than Flickr or SmugMug, especially as they are full-resolution files served to my iPad and online as Smart Previews. This is key as my iPad is only 64GB; the Smart Previews stored locally only take up 1.3GB.

It’s actually pretty amazing. The photos I shoot on my iPhone using LrM are automatically loaded to the Cloud. Almost instantly, they are available in my LrM catalogue served to iPad and online on my Lightroom site (different from my Portfolio).

Lightroom 6 Standalone integrationHow does all this work with my old and out-of-date standalone version of Lr – Lightroom 6?

This is the $64,000 question (or $6.49/month question!) The answer: surprisingly well! I say surprisingly, because I didn’t think there would be any integration at all. However, all the iPhone photos I shoot with LrM show up in my Lightroom 6 standalone app on my laptop in a Folder called ‘TerryMcDonald’s iPhone’. Wow – it couldn’t be simpler!

Where the integration shines, though, is in Collections. I can designate any “Collection” to “Synch with Lightroom mobile”. Note: this cannot be done for Smart Collections or Collection Sets – but that’s fine because I don’t want everything on Lightroom Mobile, only the best of the best. Since my standalone Lr 6 desktop app has access to all 60,000+ digital photos in my Lightroom Catalogue, I used it to prepare content for my Portfolio site by creating a series of Collections of only my best photographs.

While scanning through photos from years gone by took a bit of time, it was actually a great review of many hundreds of my best photographs. The Lr Library module, as a digital asset management tool, makes finding photos quick and easy. I can set the Attribute to ‘Flagged’ and/or ‘3 stars and higher’, add in come keywords and voila, I have a set of my best photos to choose from.  As I selected photos, it gave me chance to update the processing and editing of a number of older photographs that now look better than ever. It’s important to remember, a portfolio website is not a catch-all of thousands of photos, it is meant to showcase the best of the best, so it’s good to be picky. 

Creating a Portfolio websiteView of Portfolio page - T McDonald -

With individual Collections automatically showing up in LrM (on my iPad and iPhone), importing individual Collections as Galleries into my Portfolio is easy as clicking on a few buttons. I can also Import all the photos in the Collection or choose the ones I want shown in my Portfolio. Also, within each Gallery page, I can re-order and re-title photographs or, I can make the updates permanent by going back to LrM, making the necessary corrections to the order and titles, then simply choose “Reset to Lightroom” from within Portfolio. This is easy! I can also toggle off and on individual Gallery Pages.

There is also integration with Behance – Adobe’s ‘free’ clearing house for ‘Creatives’ who wish to share/display their work online. I added a few multimedia projects to Behance (my Ethiopia video, Spark photo essay and a folio) that were supposed to automatically populate my Portfolio site but, frustratingly, that didn’t seem to work. Instead, I put them onto Portfolio directly and can share them to Behance. As Behance is really not important to me, perhaps this is the better way of doing it.

Suffice it to say, there is still much for me to discover within Portfolio. I’m sure there are more creative ways for me to display by work online, but this simple, straightforward approach seems to be time-saver compared to SmugMug and Flickr. Now, that being said, I’ve sold a number of photographs to people who saw my work on SmugMug and Flickr, so I’m not quite ready to ditch them. Time will tell if Portfolio is a better site for visibility. One further integration I noticed was with Adobe Stock. I can add my photos from Portfolio to Adobe Stock and potentially earn income. However, after reading a few reviews of Adobe Stock, I’ve learned that the pennies they pay may not be worth it. We’ll see.

If you have any questions, queries or comments please use the Comments box below or drop me an email. Also, please feel free to share this post with others through Facebook, Twitter or whatever other social media you have connections with. Thanks for reading!

More on Ethiopia

My recent trip to Ethiopia has left an impression that will last for quite some time. Aside from the spectacular landscapes and the simple beauty of the rock-hewn churches (read Indiana Jones meets National Geographic!), I am reminded of how complicated we have made our lives compared to many of the Ethiopians I met along the way. Our collective love affair with ‘stuff’ and our societal belief that ‘more is better’ is simply overwhelming. As I look around my neighbourhood, I see a clear indication of this, by how few of us can actually put our car in our garage.

Miriam Korkor rock-hewn church, Gher’Alta, Tigray, Ethiopia

I am and always have been a ‘stills’ photographer, primarily capturing natural landscapes and nature’s intimate details. However, since first using iPhone, I have also been drawn to capturing ambient sounds and video. In my short travels through northern Ethiopia, I made a number of videos which I have combined with some stills, ambient sounds and Tigrayan music into single video using iMovie. It’s my first ‘go’ with iMovie and while I think I’ve done a fair job at mastering transitions and overlaying sound, I think some of my clips may still be a little long. Perhaps, I’ll go back one day and rework this, but for now, here it is: Ethiopia 2019 Video.

I’ve also been asked, by a few people, for any tips I have for travelling to and photographing in Ethiopia. The following is an updated version of what I wrote on the Luminous-Landscape forum website last week:

Photo Tips: Work on convincing your drivers/guides to start early. Earlier than 8-8:30 was a struggle. I don’t think they quite understand the needs of photographers for the early morning light. As I was mostly travelling alone in a Land Cruiser, the drivers were very accommodating for photo stops.

There is an element of zooification when travelling to a low-income country. It’s something we discuss at length in the tourism unit of the IB Geography course I teach. I also introduce the term to my Grade 7s when we discuss the benefits and challenges of World Heritage Sites. I, for one, am intrigued by the markets and street life: the bustle of life lived on the streets, the sounds and colours and busy-ness of it all. But there is an element of voyeurism, too, that I am highly self-conscious of. At times, I felt this way when photographing the nuns, priests and monks at the churches, as a small payment is typically expected.

Don’t be afraid to walk the streets/markets to shoot, bút it’s better with your driver or guide as they can explain why you wish to photograph. Many people did NOT want their photos taken – respect that and move on because many did not mind at all, especially if you show them the photo afterwards and/or make a purchase from them.

Shop-owner, student and guide, Tsega Gebru, village of Megab, Ethiopia

A bigger camera system will definitely be more intimidating for candid portraits and street photography. It will also make you an bigger target. Being a westerner, ups the chances for theft, but I had no issues as my phone always went back in my front pocket and my Sony camera always back in my small hip case (one I bought decades ago to hold 4×5 film holders – my have times changed!)

I used ETT – Ethio Travel & Tours. Sunight was fantastic at organizing. All via email, she put together my two-week itinerary according to my requests, that included all accommodations (w/WiFi and private bathroom), all breakfasts, all internal flights (I had three) and transfers, all drivers and guides, and all entrance fees for USD 1750 – cash, paid on arrival. This kind of payment may scare off some who want the security of having everything booked and paid for ahead of time, but it is Africa, and, short of the much higher priced escorted tours, there are never any guarantees. That being said, everything went off without a hitch. As it is, ETT does most of the work for Erta Ale and the Danakil Depression, if not directly, then subcontracted to them. 
NOTE: If you fly in/out using Ethiopian Airlines (as good as many, better than most), all of your internal flights are significantly cheaper. And flights are the way to get around the country. 

The busy season is Dec-Jan for Christian observances and festivals (and into Feb) when up to to 10,000 will be in Lalibela, Aksum and the various churches. These are great opportunities for capturing the mood/feeling, but more expensive and frankly far too many tourists, especially for getting up/down the remote Tigray Churches. The rock-hewn churches of Gher’Alta Tigray – Miriam Korkor, Daniel Korkor, Abuna Yemata Gur – are only one way up and down. Any more than ten people will really slow things down and, for me anyway, completely ruin the experience of being in a quiet, inaccessible place of peace.

Prayer niche for monks, Daniel Korkor, Gher’Alta, Tigray, Ethiopia

March seemed to be ideal as it is the tail end of the main season and was not busy, but still with worshippers for cultural depth to photos. July-Aug is the rainy season – more difficult to get around but with much greener landscapes. 

I did not get to Gondor, Lake Tana / Blue Nile Falls, Simien Mtns or the southern Rift Valley for the Oromo cultures, but all are highly recommended – especially trekking in the Simien Mtns – according to tourists I spoke to there. However, visiting the Oromo cultures in the south is rife with zooification. Many French, German, Brits, Japanese and Chinese. I met only 1 other Canadian and only 1 American. Clearly, Ethiopia is not on the North American radar (not surprising, though).

Any other Qs, let me know. As I said at the beginning, tourism is just starting; while there is luxury, it somehow seems out of place in a low-income country. But it also means there are fewer tourists overall and the ones there are not the coach tour/cruise tourists.

Ethiopia: Adobe Spark

A couple of firsts for me on this trip, besides the sites, scenery and experiences:

  • Adobe Lightroom Mobile: I finally succumbed to Adobe and have purchased a subscription to Lightroom Mobile CC (CAD 6.49/mo). This allows me full access for editing photos made using the raw and hdr-raw features of the LrM camera on my iPhone. And, once the photos are in the cloud, space is saved on my mobile devices by just keeping the Smart Previews on my phone and iPad.
  • After a day of shooting, I would go through my images deleting duplicates. As I am travelling, not knowing how things would visually develop, I tend to take more ‘lead up shots’: the best I could get at the time, not knowing if conditions or angles would improve. If they did, great, I would simply delete those ‘lead up’ shots.
  • At first I was editing on iPhone only. Given the very slow upload speeds here in Ethiopia, I couldn’t work on the iPad. The smaller screen size of my phone worked, but almost made me blind as even the bifocals didn’t help. I ended up taking off my glasses and holding the phone up to my face for my blind eyes to see clearly!
  • Once photos were in the cloud with Smart Previews on the iPad, editing became a breeze – even easier than with Lr on the laptop! I can’t wait to get home and try it with an Apple Pencil; it should be even easier.
  • I’ve been rather disappointed with the performance of the SanDisk iXpand flash drive I purchased prior to the trip. I was hoping it would be a reliable place to keep large files, especially videos. While it has worked in that I have removed videos from my phone, it often (three of four times per use) needed to be unplugged and rebooted, which, understandably, is annoying.

  • TrackMyTour: Each evening, I would add photos and narrative to Waypoints created in TrackMyTour, which you are most likely already aware of from this blog (Ethiopia 2019). It’s not quite the app I would prefer for this, but it seems to be the best option of the myriad travel blog apps out there.
  • Adobe Spark Page: I’m also trying out the free version of Adobe Spark Page. While I find its themes and options highly limiting, it can be used to create a dynamic (though not interactive) photo essay. I can pull photos in from a few different sources including Lr Mobile and Apple Photos. Adding videos is a pain though, as they need to be online via YouTube or Vimeo; not easy to do with limited bandwidth and time. You can see my Spark Presentation Ethiopia 2019 online.

    If you have any questions or comments, please add them below – and don’t forget to re-share this post.

    Ethiopia 2019

    Lalibela, EthiopiaI hadn’t planned on travelling to Ethiopia, but as circumstances would have it, here I am. (You can follow my travels via my TrackMyTour link.) It’s day 6 of a 14-day trip. Right now, I’m in Lalibela, home of the magnificent 11th-century rock-hewn churches. The view before me is stunning: a succession of plateaux and ridges receding into the distance lit by the early morning sun. The green is a mirage of light as the landscape hasn’t seen rain in months.

    Medhane Elem, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia But, in a slight departure for me, I’m travelling solo and I’m here more for the cultural landscapes than the natural ones. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the world’s oldest Christian sects, dating from the early 4th century. As a result, some of the churches and monasteries are some of the oldest in Christendom. The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela – free-standing buildings carved down into the solid rock – date from the 12th century. Some of the monasteries and churches I’ll be visiting in Tigray are significantly older.

    As a photographer, there is no end to the visually captivating scenes and experiences, from modern Addis to the very traditional countryside. I’m shooting with my Sony RX-10iii and iPhone 8 Plus. Stupidly, I brought my Nikon full-frame and 3 prime lenses and tripod, but have not put them to use; perhaps later, in the Danakil Depression.

    I didn’t realize how much I have missed Africa until I got out of Addis Ababa into the rural towns and villages. But even being the market in Addis was like coming home.

    I will do my best to share more experiences here, but I will update the TrackMyTour link more frequently. Please comment and share!

    Ha Noi Streets

    Over the summer, my wife Laura and I accompanied our daughter Allison and her boyfriend Patrick while travelling through Southeast Asia. One of the many highlights for me was spending time walking the streets of Ha Noi, Viet Nam and photographing daily life there.

    People in Ha Noi really do live their lives on the streets, without being what we in the west think of as “street people”. Food is prepared, cooked and eaten on the streets. People take mid-day naps on the streets; they read the paper, sell their wares and entertain themselves on the street. At times, the streets have a carnival-like atmosphere, particularly during the Night Markets – markets that open after sun down and sell just about anything and everything. Streets are blocked off from cars entering and vendors set up tables (and tarpaulins as it does rain a lot there) and span the next few hours selling. Fascinating!

    To make my life easier, the people I photographed were very accommodating. For the most part, I was able to ask for permission before shooting, except, of course, those who were napping at the time or whizzing by on motorbikes. Some of the people I asked said no, and I respected that, but these are the ones who agreed. This made, for me, a very rich travel experience, interacting with people I could not converse with, but having a general and somewhat universal understanding of what each other was trying to say. I was able to get a local hotel from, which helped me stay close to the people. Twice, I was offered pieces of fruit from ladies who were selling it. They would not take money from me when offered, but indicated it was a gift. How lovely. How truly genuine.

    You’ll notice, all of these photos are made using an iPhone. I have found using an iPhone to be revolutionary for me, especially in street photography, an area I have little experience or confidence in pursuing. However, It seems people are not as intimidated having their photo taken with a phone as they might be with a more substantial camera. Ha Noi is a very different place from Guelph or Toronto. I’m not sure I could or would be able to do the same thing here.

    Please take a moment to click through the images in the Gallery below (click on the first image to enlarge it, then scroll through to see the others). Note that I have only provided very general titles. Rather than explaining each photo in the title, I would rather leave it up to the viewer to look into the photo to see what’s happening and come to their own conclusions. Some are more obvious than others.

    Please leave comments (or questions) below and I encourage you to take a moment to share this page using the links at the bottom.


    Trekking in northern Vietnam

    Trekking in northern Vietnam

    My wife Laura and I are accompanying our daughter Allison and her boyfriend Patrick on an extended trip through Vietnam, and parts of Cambodia and Thailand. Allison spent 3 months+ in Hue, Vietnam last year on an internship for her course in International Development at the U of Ottawa. She graduated in June and we all thought this would be a great way of spending some family time time, doing what we love most: discovering new places.

    I have kept a chronicle of our journey using the app TrackMyTour, the link for which is below.

    We started off in Hanoi, visited Ha Long Bay, then travelled north by night train to Sa Pa, near the Chinese border, where this photo was made. From there, we went back to Hanoi then on to Tráng An (Ninh Bình), Hue, Da Nang and Da Lat. We are now in Phu Quoc for a few days before moving on to Cambodia. What an adventure Allison has prepared for (she’s done all the bookings for accommodations and transportation).

    We are on sensory overload, something photographs do not convey well: a cacophony of sounds and smells and tastes and textures and a riot of cultural visuals that are overwhelming. I will be adding more photos from the collection I’ve gathered over the last few weeks, so stay tuned!