Recent Travel Adventures
The Great Ocean Walk runs along the southern coast of Victoria, Australia. Despite a couple of steep sections, the short days and well-marked trail make it a scenic and relaxed hike, suitable for hikers getting their first taste of long distance walks. You’ll pass through the green forests of the Otways to the rugged coast, […]Read More ›
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for me, and I always know that when everything feels overwhelming the best thing for me is to get back into nature. I’d been meaning to visit Organ Pipes National Park for ages – it’s only a half-hour drive from my house, and it’s got one of the […]Read More ›
With the recently released And Then… anthology chock full of amazing Aussie authors, I couldn’t resist drawing on their collective writing knowledge. I asked them for their best short story tips and they delivered!Read More ›
I’m stoked to be in my first anthology ever with some amazing Australian authors! And Then… the Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales Vol 1 is now available as an e-book, with paperback to come. It includes my short story, In the Company of Rogues, a satire on all the tropes in the epic […]Read More ›
Two and a half weeks with only cabin baggage sounds terrifying to most people. And it’s exactly what I’m doing tomorrow morning. I’m flying off to the States with only a small backpack and my camera satchel.Read More ›
Over the new year I always love to take photos of fireworks. Nothing says celebration like a giant fireworks explosion! It was my first new year in Melbourne, so I sought out a great spot to take pictures in Footscray, watching both the 9:30pm fireworks in Footscray and the midnight fireworks over the city. My […]Read More ›
Kat: We’ve encountered a number of Guinness World Record holders in Korea. We’ve been to the closest train station to a beach. Listened to Psy’s record-breaking YouTube video Gangnam Style (if you haven’t seen it yet, you must be living in the Antarctic). And now we’ve been to the world’s biggest department store. Shinsegae shopping mall.
Autumn in South Korea is one of the best times to visit. It’s not too hot or cold, and you’re treated to the most amazing display of colours. Over the past month I’ve visited two temples in the local region in order to shoot the autumn leaves. That’s fall for those of you who don’t speak proper English! It’s difficult to get a clear shot in Korea because of the high rise developments. There are apartment complexes even in the countryside. But temples provide a beautiful park space combined with oriental architecture.
I’ve always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo. For the uninitiated it’s where you challenge yourself to write a book over the space of one month. You have to write around 3000 words per day to meet your quota, but at the end of the month you have a pile of words ready to be edited into a novel.
Kat: On the weekend I visited Tongdosa Temple as another meetup with Ulsan photographers. I’ve been leaf chasing this season with the beautiful autumn colours (that’s fall, for you non-English speakers!). Temples offer a unique opportunity to photograph the seasonal changes next to oriental architecture. And it’s often difficult to get a clean landscape shot in Korea, because they’re often blocked by electrical wires, ugly apartment buildings and inconvenient town planning.
When I was looking to buy my camera I found it very useful to see what other photographers had in theirs. Here’s a little poke into my camera kit…
The Nikon D7000 came out just when I was looking for a new camera. It’s small and light. While it’s not a full frame camera, the DX body works great and has a decent sensor size. It also takes HD video. Of course I’d love to get a full frame camera, but my budget didn’t allow for one… which leads me to my next item.
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
Of all the advice I received when looking for a camera kit, the best was “buy the best glass you can afford and upgrade the body every few years”. I was tossing up between buying this lens and a cheaper one. I considered that if I was ever going to go professional that I would need professional glass, and that if I bought a standard lens at the time, I would still want to buy a professional lens in the future. So instead of spending money on two lenses, I bought this bad boy and have never regretted the decision. This lens is so sharp it can capture the shape of salt crystals on a table. The bokeh is as creamy as a glass of Baileys. Although it is on the heavy side (nicknamed “The Beast” by many a Nikon user), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s my go-to lens.
Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6
While this lens doesn’t have the best optics and a fair bit of distortion on the edges, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to use. And fun is really important in being creative and discovering new angles to shoot. It’s also great for shooting enormous things like the Hoover Dam.
On both of my lenses I have B+W UV filters. Always buy a good quality filter for your good quality glass!
Circular Polarizing Filter
I have a circular polarizing filter in my kit, but because both of my lenses are fairly large in diameter, it produces mixed results.
Graduated Neutral Density Filters
If you shoot landscapes you really should have a set of these in your bag. I’ve gradually been learning how to use them over the past year, and they help a lot in creating a balanced exposure in mixed light conditions. I have a set of Cokin filters.
Vanguard Lens Cleaning Kit
I always use the hankie sized microfiber cloth when I am out shooting to keep dust off my lens. It’s also really helpful when doing timed exposures in wet conditions. I keep the cloth over the lens until I’m ready to take the photo. And recently it doubled as an emergency hankie, while I was struck with the sniffles outdoors. Thankfully the washing machine brings these up like new!
Lowepro Fastpack 250
So you have all this fancy camera gear, but where are you going to put it? I’ve had a number of Lowepro bags over the years, but the Fastpack is one of the best designed travel camera backpacks you can get. The camera is loaded on the side, which means you can get to your camera in a matter of seconds. But it doesn’t look like a camera bag, so those sneaky thieves can’t find your gear! Added to this, there is a slot for my laptop in the back. While I don’t carry around my laptop everywhere, it fits all my valuables in a cabin baggage sized bag. Added to this, there is a handy upper compartment where I store my raincoat and snacks if I am hiking. One addition I would make to the bag is an inbuilt rain cover and straps for holding in a tripod on the side.
Manfrotto 190CX and Grip Ball Head
This is the newest addition to my camera family. I’ve been using a Gorillapod for a while, but I’m moving into shooting video as well as stills. And while the Gorillapod has been great, especially in places that don’t allow tripods, it gets difficult shooting landscapes with it! Because I do a lot of hiking and travelling, I opted for the carbon fibre version. Well worth the money and very lightweight.
Tres useful for putting your pictures on the computer and it means you don’t need to fuss with carrying another cable.
16GB Memory Cards
Memory cards are more important that you think. Most people don’t realize why some memory cards are more expensive than others. It’s because of their speed. The number on the front tells you how fast it is. If you shoot video you need a card that is an 8 or more.
What was in my kit that’s not there now?
I did have a few things with me on this trip that I’ve since discarded or sent back to Australia. This includes my old kit lens 70-300mm which wasn’t good enough quality on the D7000, added to which I hardly used it except to take photos at the zoo. I’ve switched to cloud backups for my music and photography, which cut down on the three external hard drives. Everything else in the picture is still with me, except I replaced my Nalgene bottle in the states. And yes, all this fits in the backpack. Cool hey!
Things I would like in my kit
Ahh… so here comes my wish list of things I would like. Thanks Santa!
- Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
- Nikon D600
- GPS Adaptor
- Remote shutter release
I recently had the chance to view the new James Bond film, Skyfall. And what a film it is. Spectacular performances, brilliant direction and a chilling villain. But my highest praise is reserved for the incredible cinematography by Roger Deakins. Deakins may be a household name to cinephiles, but cinematographers often lose their recognition among the more visible stars of a film.
This year I was involved with the Ulsan Photo Walk, as part of the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk. It was organised by Jason Teale, a wonderful local photographer. We met at the Taewha Grand Park in Ulsan, just as a helicopter was coming in to practice an emergency rescue. Very dramatic.
It was great to meet up with some of the amateur and professional photographers in the area.While Jason took the beginner photographers on a guided walk, Jason’s challenge to the more experienced photographers was to look at detail. I started by taking photos of the beautiful autumn leaves near the bridge.
I finally got out my graduated neutral density filters. I’ve carried them halfway across the world and only used them a couple of times. But the patient process of landscape photography gave me a great opportunity to use them, particularly as the sun went down. I’m really happy with the results, as you can see in the landscape at the start of the article. Unfortunately my new tripod hadn’t arrived yet, so I was stuck using my gorillapod on a rickety bridge, which shook every time someone walked across it.
As I explored the wheat fields, these joyful children running through the fields reminded me of Eva Cassidy’s classic song, Among the Fields of Barley.
Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley.
See the children run as the sun goes down among the fields of gold.
You’ll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley.
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky when we walked in fields of gold.
I was entranced by the feather like aspects of the barley fields as I walked around the Taewha Grand Park. It gave me a good opportunity to play with the delicious bokeh of the Nikon 24-70. As the evening went on my photography became more experimental, until it devolved into bokeh photography and I decided that it was time to stop!
If you’re interested in photography and live in the Ulsan area, please join our Photographers in Ulsan group on Facebook.
Kat: One of the greatest Korean inventions is the DIY table top BBQ. Imagine piles upon piles of beef delivered to your table with copious side servings of salad, garlic and chili sauce. That’s bulgogi. It’s my favourite Korean food, simple as it is. Mmmm… bulgogi, as Homer Simpson would say.
Kat: Seoraksan National Park is the highlight of many itineraries in South Korea. It’s easy to see why, with the crystal clear waters splashing through enormous granite valleys. I always knew I wanted to go there during my time in Korea, and the opportunity came up with the 5 day Chuseok holiday.
Travelling to Gangneung
Kat: This October we got five days off work to celebrate Chuseok. Chuseok is Korean thanksgiving, when everyone goes back to their homes to visit family, eat lots of rice cakes and for kids to mooch money off relatives. During Chuseok the trains sell out, roads are packed with traffic and buses take a long time on major highways. We booked train tickets on the day they came out, so we got seats, but other people had to stand up on the train. We used the holiday to go right up to the northernmost corner of Korea, Gangwon province. Gangwon is a coastal area which borders the East sea and the DMZ. It is the only split province in South Korea.
I just wanted to share a few things going on with my writing these days. Literary Traveler has published one of my articles called Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck and the Californian Coast. It talks about the spiritual aspects of travelling, particularly finding yourself in quiet places. I’m rather proud of it, I put a lot of work into it and the experience of driving Highway 1 meant a lot to me. Go read it now!
I have a few publications coming up on Weird Fiction Review, which is a wonderful resource of articles, stories and features on weird fiction. I’m writing a series of essays as part of their 101 Weird Writers section, based on the epic anthology The Weird . I’ve written about Charles Beaumont, an under-appreciated short story writer from the 60s, and just finished an essay on Margo Lanagan, one of my favourite Australian writers.
Finally I’ve almost finished editing my YA novel, which has been sitting around for a long time. It was one of the first long form pieces I wrote, so it needed a lot of editing, including a tense and narrator change! But it’s shaping into a better story. I’m amazed that I can now look at my work far more analytically than when I started writing. It’s encouraging for me to see how far I’ve come as a writer and to keep on doing it!
Kat: It’s been an exciting week at Monkey HQ! We hosted our very first Couch Surfer. Couch Surfing is an international community of travellers who practice hospitality by putting people up in their homes for a couple of nights. It might seem somewhat scary to invite a stranger into your house, especially off the internet, but Couch Surfing has a great system of vouching and feedback (a bit like ebay). So we met Edgar, a lovely guy from the Philippines who is also a travel writer and photographer. Edgar blogs at Eazytraveler, which really captures his chilled out nature.
Meeting the folks
Justin: This week we entertained my parents, the two orangutans from Sydney, Australia. It was a welcome visit as the past couple of weeks have been kinda tough for me, with homesickness, culture shock and feeling really tired every day. I needed a fresh blast from Australia.
My favourite artistic period is the Impressionist movement. I adore Renoir and Monet, Pissarro and Cezanne.
I’ve experimented over the years with creating impressionist images in my photography. Impressionist photography is quite broad; some people simply blur images or take photographs of bokeh. I think it’s important to still anchor the viewer in the landscape, having an awareness of place, which means the picture isn’t just mistaken for camera shake.
Travelsupermarket.com is running a photo competition called Capture the Colour, where you pick five photographs that represent blue, green, yellow, white and red. I think it’s a pretty interesting idea, as using colour in an image is an essential part of travel photography. There’s a whopping first prize of 2000 pounds and iPads for category winners. You can enter the competition here. Here are my entries in the competition.
Kat: Having lived in Ulsan for just over three months now it was weird that we’d never travelled to Busan before. Busan is Korea’s second largest city, right on the coast, and a big shipping town. It’s only 40 minutes by bus from our place, 20 on the train. But friends of ours were having a birthday party and I was flying out from Busan airport the next day to Singapore, so it was a good excuse to go down an explore the city.
Kat: We went to Seoul for the long weekend to explore the big Korean city. On Saturday night we found our stomachs grumbling. Justin’s foot was still healing from his foot injuries which meant we couldn’t walk far. Luckily our hostel was in the middle of Sinchon near the university district, filled with restaurants and bars.
That beautiful photo. The one with the Bedouin posing next to the camel in the sunset, wistful look in his eyes. The one that was going to win you National Geographic’s photo competition and set your name in stone as the next big thing. Except you lost it when your computer got nicked on the Cambodian border.
So you want to be a travel writer… oh, and you want to get paid? It’s the dilemma I’m facing as I look at travel writing and photography as a viable long-term career. Dreaming about tropical islands and six figure advances won’t feed the dog. But making a business plan and realistically assessing my income will go a long way to making me financially solvent. A budget is the first step to making money as a travel writer. I’m going to use my situation as an example.
The clank of the air conditioning unit. The footfall of my steps on the marble staircase. At the glass door the local stray moggie strolls across my path, dirty with yellow dust. Across the street an old woman in a fluoro vest and visor pulls a metal shopping trolley behind her. She wears a towel over her head to protect from the sun, despite the smog on the mountains giving the sky a grey pallor.
Bill is sitting on the front lawn of his suburban brick house on an orange plastic chair, stubby resting on his beer gut. His white moustache has the familiar yellowing stains of a cigarette addict. He is looking at the skid marks left on the lawn by his teenage son with a souped-up Holden.