My New Panasonic Lumix GX-7!!

 

Panasonic Lumix GX-7

Ok, I’ll admit this is a bit of an odd follow up to my previous post which was all about how smartphones come with really impressive cameras these days. But, hey, what’s a girl to do when she gets an early birthday present from her boyfriend?

A New Camera – YAY!

After almost two years of smartphone-only photography, I finally have a brand spankin’ new camera with some manual features that should allow me to take better shots. It’s a Panasonic Lumix GX-7, and it’s super cool. I just got it yesterday so all its little feature and doodads are still new to me, but so far I’ve been really happy with the snaps :)

Panasonic Lumix GX-7 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

Earlier I went out and took some test shots using the Panasonic as well as my Samsung Galaxy S5. Both cameras take 16MP photos, but I definitely saw sharper quality photos with the Panasonic.

Panasonic Lumix GX-7

(L) Panasonic Lumix, (R) Samsung Galaxy

Panasonic Lumix GX-7

(L) Panasonic Lumix, (R) Samsung Galaxy

Why Now?

Well my readers, I’m glad you asked. I find myself in the possession of this nifty new device in preparation for an upcoming adventure. Next week I’ll be embarking on a cruise trip around the whole of Iceland, stopping to take in the scenery along the way. Needless to say I’m pretty excited to get out there and start snapping photos — there will be much more on the Iceland cruise to come!

Smartphone Photography Tips from Dan Rubin

 

smartphone_photography_masterclass

A few nights ago I was invited to attend a “Smartphone Photography Masterclass” with Dan Rubin, one of Instagram‘s first beta testers and a bonafide Instagram superstar (he’s got 730k+ followers).

The class was a collaboration with Hotel Indigo Kensington and the World Photography Association.

As someone who only owns a smartphone camera – I don’t have a dedicated digital camera, much less a DSLR – I appreciated Dan’s take on smartphone photography. Despite his photography pedigree, he urges people not to look down at smartphone cameras. They may not have all the features of a DSLR, but they are still perfectly capable of capturing fantastic print-quality images (just look at the guy’s Instagram feed if you need proof), provided you know what you’re doing.

So, without further ado, here are the top tips I took from the class:

1. Smartphone cameras don’t capture what you see
Yep, you read that right. According to Dan, the reason you’re so often disappointed with your smartphone snaps is because all digital cameras (DSLRs included) have been programmed and constructed to “guess” what you see rather than accurately represent it. The result is often dull or flat photos. However, you can often bring them back to life with a little post-editing wizardry.

2. It’s all about light and exposure
I’m not a photography guru, but obviously light and exposure are related. Photography is all about “painting with light,” so it’s very important that your smartphone images capture the right light. That is, try not to over or underexpose photos.  Instead, try to maintain a good balance between shadows and highlights. This will give you much more flexibility when you start editing.

mews

I felt inspired and took some shots after class. This was shot on my Samsung Galaxy S5’s native camera app, then edited in VSCO Cam and Snapseed.

3. Tools of the trade
Dan’s recommended apps (he has an iPhone)
VSCO Cam
Snapseed
CortexCam (particularly good for capturing images in lowlight)
Touch Retouch
AntiCrop
SKRWT
Manual
Instagram (well, obviously!)

4. Your smartphone’s native camera app is good enough for capturing raw images

mews2

Another post-class shot. This was again shot on my Samsung Galaxy S5’s native camera app, then edited in VSCO Cam and Snapseed.

Dan’s been taking photos with native camera apps since the iPhone 4, so most new-ish smartphones should have sufficient chops to capture great images. For certain lowlight situations, he mentioned using CortexCam several times and also brought up the fact that some Android devices don’t offer as much manual exposure control as the latest iPhones. You can gain more control, however, by using the camera feature in apps like VSCO (which I tried, and it worked pretty well!).

5. Keep that screen bright!
Always take and edit photos with your screen at its brightest level. It may be a battery killer, but it will pay off,

6. Quality over quantity
Taking a ridiculous amount of pictures is not the route to Instagram stardom. Instead, look at the world around you, frame your shots, and think carefully before you shoot. Have patience and the overall quality and composition of your photos will improve. After that, it’s just a matter of tinkering around with editing tools until you reach a level where you’re happy with your shots.

There you have it folks!

What about you? Do you have any smartphone photography tips or tricks?

Thailand Through a Square Lens

 

Well my lovelies, it’s the festive season and that means I’m getting ready for a new travel adventure. I’ll be spending Christmas in Germany this year and will be separated from my beloved laptop. That means, unfortunately, that I won’t be able to post anything to the blog until the New Year.

You’ll be able to follow my adventures through the German winter wonderland on Twitter and Instagram.

In the mean time, here are some Instagram snaps from my latest trip to beautiful Bangkok.

Happy Holidays!

Folk Band at a Talad Nam (Floating Market) on the outskirts of Pattaya.

A photo posted by Girl in London (@girlinlondon_rtw) on

If you’ve been to Bangkok before then you’re probably familiar with the city’s distinctive above-street cross walks. Not only do they keep pedestrians away from the [insane] traffic, but they also offer up great views!

Who doesn’t love a good #strideby? This one comes courtesy of a local tuk tuk.

Bangkok is the unofficial capital of street food and it’s easy to see why. Street food stalls are quite literally on every corner!

Speaking of street food . . .

This is my favourite photo of the trip. It may not be the best from a technical perspective, but it just reminds me of the contrast between Bangkok and London.

 

A photo posted by Girl in London (@girlinlondon_rtw) on

The Chao Phraya River runs through the centre of Bangkok and if you visit I recommend taking a water taxi through the city. It’s a traffic-free way of seeing Bangkok and there are so many different little areas to explore.

Linnahall: Echoes of Estonia’s Soviet Past

 

While Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, still hasn’t quite earned top billing as a tourist destination, the city’s medieval old town is quickly rising through the ranks of must-see spots in Europe. The network of photogenic cobblestone streets that run through this UNESCO World Heritage Site rival those found in Bruges, but come without the wallet-squeezing price tag. Surrounding Tallinn Old Town are its original medieval walls, which have served to insulate it more ways than one.

The days of marauding invaders may be over, but Tallinn hasn’t escaped turmoil in the modern era. Faced with occupation by both Soviet Russia and Germany over the course of the Second World War, the Cold War saw Estonia fall on the wrong side of the iron curtain and the national became the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Abandoned Linnahall (Formerly the V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport)

Despite its aged facade, it was towards the end of the Cold War that Linnahall was built. Located quite literally across the street from the glittering jewel that is Tallin Old Town, this abandoned art and culture venue stands as a sobering reminder of Estonia’s Soviet past. Constructed in 1980 to serve as a venue for the Moscow Olympics, Linnahall was originally christened  the V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport.

The venue had a capacity of 6,000 in its prime (see interior photos on The Tallinn Collector), but today plays host to no one but the occasional tourist who has wandered adrift.

Linnahall

I’m admittedly too young to really remember the Cold War, but the fact that Linnahall is younger than my brother (born 1979) helped put things into perspective for me. These days it’s just a little too easy to look at old photos and say ‘hey, that must have been tough’, and move on without much thought. Walking down the crumbling, graffiti-ridden grounds of Linnahall brought the reality of Estonia’s very recent past to life.

The grounds of Linnahall – the ferris wheel in the background is part of a seaside amusement park.

View of the Baltic Sea from Linnahall

Linnahall stands in such stark contract to Tallinn Old Town that I’d recommend visiting it just for the sake of gaining an appreciation of the city’s history. It’s located due north of old town, right on the water.

Photo Essay: Old Town Tallinn

 

The medieval heart of Tallinn is one of those places that will give your camera a good workout. It’s the kind of place where you can, and should, get lost in. The tiny sector of town has a skyline that is dotted with old churches and features streets paved with cobblestones so round from wear that it’s as if they were all giant grey marshmallows. Add to that a mix of Easter egg-worthy pastel colours and you’ve got yourself one of the prettiest old towns in Europe.

Town Hall Square

Town Hall Square

Tallinn Old Town - Town Hall Square Panorama

Town Hall Square Panorama

Old Town Tallinn: Viru Gates

Flower shops in front of the Viru Gates

Tallinn Old Town

My favourite picture from the trip: a cobblestoned side street

Tallinn Old Town

Exquisitely carved wooden door

View of St. Nicholas' Church Tower

View of St. Nicholas’ Church Tower

Crowded buildings

At only a century old, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a relatively modern building on the outskirts of Tallinn’s Old Town.

Tallinn Old Town Walls

Tallinn Old Town Walls

Tallinn Old Town with modern Tallinn in the background

Photo Essay: Lower Normandy

 

The moment I first arrived in Lower Normandy following a lengthy ferry ride across the English Channel, my first instinct was to exhale. After spending months cooped up in the choking density of central London I felt a sense of relief from being in the presence of open fields and grazing land. My moment of zen didn’t last long as I was on a tight schedule. Lower Normandy, as it turns out, is a bit of a logistics nightmare if you are traveling without a car. Depending heavily on public transport, I set out to explore three items from my travel “bucket list” – Mont-Saint-Michel, the D-Day Landing Sites and the Bayeux Tapestry.

Mont-Saint-Michel

I caught my first glimpse of Mont-Saint-Michel on the 2-hour train ride from Caen to Pontorson. It exposed itself for a brief moment behind a cluster of drab storage warehouses, giving me and a sprinkling of other tourists on the train a preview of what was to come. Following a short bus ride from Pontorson, Mont-Saint-Michel revealed itself in full view. The result of over 1000 years of construction, this fairytale abbey is perhaps the most photogenic spot in all of France.

View from within Mont-Saint-Michel

The abbey was built at the top of a small island just off the coast from the mainland in a shallow sandy bay. During high tide, water fills the bay and transforms the landscape, making Mont-Saint-Michel appear as a castle floating in the sea. Unfortunately I missed high tide during my visit, but that didn’t take anything away from Michel’s beauty.

Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey

Mont-Saint-Michel is still an active abbey and a small group of nuns reside here year round.

Nun climbing the Abbey steps

Even at low tide on a cold and gray morning, the views from the top of Mont-Saint-Michel are stunning. The photo below shows the elevated road from the mainland to Michel as well as the surrounding bay.

View from Mont-Saint-Michel

Below the abbey is a maze of densely packed streets covered in cobblestones, cafes, souvenir shops and a few small museums.  The photo below is from a cafe located at the foot of the island with a cafe au lait in the foreground.

Cafe au Lait

Head east along the coastline from Mont-Saint-Michel and you’ll reach the D-Day landing sites.  Because I was without a rental vehicle, I took a D-Day tour departing from Bayeux.  The photo below is of Pointe du Hoc, just east of Omaha Beach.  It was here that US Army Rangers scaled the cliffs to destroy a cluster of German casemates on June 6th, 1944.

Pointe du Hoc

Facing the early morning sun, Pointe du Hoc makes for an eerily serene setting.

Pointe du Hoc Battlefield

Looking towards the English Channel, pockmarks on the ground left by bombs nearly 70 years ago are still clearly evident.

Pointe du Hoc Battlefield

Pointe du Hoc’s proximity to Omaha Beach (shown in the distance below) is part of why it was such a heavily contested area.

Pointe du Hoc Battlefield

Some of the original German bunkers are still in tact and are open to visitors.

German Bunker

Omaha Beach is located a short drive from Pointe du Hoc and is now frequented by dog walkers and joggers.  Nearly 70 years ago, 15,000 soldiers stormed this beach to help liberate Northern France from the Nazis.

Omaha Beach

The Normandy American Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the soldiers who fought on D-Day.  The cemetery is set on a cliff overlooking the English Channel.

Normandy American Cemetery

Most of the graves in the cemetery are named, but there are numerous unnamed markers inscribed with “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God”.

Unnamed Grave

Inland from the D-Day landing sites is the ancient town of Bayeux.  Like most European towns, it is anchored by a formidable cathedral.  The Bayeux Cathedral (below) is striking, but is best known for once being home to the Bayeux Tapestry – a 1000 year old embroidery than runs 230 feet long.

Bayeux Cathedral

Today, the Bayeux Tapestry is held and protected in its own museum just a few steps away from the cathedral.  Across the length of the delicate cloth are numerous panels detailing the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England and the subsequent Battle of Hastings.

Bayeux Tapestry

It’s estimated that the embroidery was created sometime around 1066 and the illustrations created from the stitching range from amazing to even comical (see the generously sized horse penis above).  The battle sequences and horses are of particularly high quality, while some of the portraits and faces are reminiscent of Quentin Blake illustrations.

Bayeux Tapestry