Doug's Travel Photography Corner



  • edited November 2020

    Can I take great pictures with a smartphone when on a Tauck tour? It's a fun topic to debate or consider.

    I don't know, why not? Imagine this scenario: you are a well-known, even -- famed wedding photographer and a potential client says she'll pay you your $15,000 fee for the day, to photograph her wedding.

    However, she stipulates that she is camera shy and you must do it with your smartphone. Would you do it? You might say, "No, I can't deliver the quality I'm famous for" or you might say, "Sure. Can do!"

    You still have your own bridal make-up artist. You can still choose the lighting, locations, and shooting angles. You can still pose subjects. You are renown, and folks take you seriously and will pose as you wish. You can still choose props, you can still sit the bride by a window to get that artistic lighting as she is made up. You can still find mirrors in the dressing room to do mirror shots.

    You can still use the tele function of your smartphone, and even use your feet to come in close or back away and go wide.

    Perhaps you might do beach shots or even other special locations, and use reflective umbrellas, or scrims of fabric to produce soft light on your subjects. When the sunlight is too harsh, you can find shaded areas with lovely backgrounds.

    You still use your command of lighting, color co-ordination, composition, and sense of when to release the shutter.

    Isn't it mostly the Indian and not the arrow? The point is, you can improve your smartphone photos if you're interested in doing it. Actually, I did read of professional photographers that worked wedding venues with a smartphone. But wow, you'd have to be self-confident, LOL. :)


  • Regarding the smartphone question, I used to use a Nikon and bring several lenses with me in a camera bag. I now use my phone. Why?
    First, I'm not into photography like I used to be. Second, I'm on vacation to EXPERIENCE where I'm am and photography is not my primary focus (pun intended). The tail doesn't wag the dog. So far, I'm happy with my decision to lighten the load. YMMV.

  • edited November 2020

    Sure, BKMD. Absolutely. I think that covers most Tauck guests -- the emphasis is on the experience. There's so much to learn on tour, so rich an experience. The interest of most Tauck guests, if using a device to take pictures, is usually to do some memorializing of that experience -- and a phone is great for that purpose, designed for snapshots. Folks like me are the odd ducks in the Tauck ecosystem.

    So, just sayin', you can push your cell phone photography skills as an option, if that is what you'd be interested in doing.

    And, if your interest in photography should rekindle, you might even try out the smartphone accessory lenses (I haven't).

    I imagine if one is into photography you'd be more likely to choose a photography tour, with like-minded companions. You'll usually get better photo locations, sunrise and sunset emphasis, and you learn stuff related to photography. The cons are that the photo tours may cost more in terms of paying for the instructor and small group size. Food and accomodations are less of a feature. But the biggest issue for me is that it's a waste to bring along a non-photographer spouse on a photo tour. So I do both.

    It's a very individual, very personal choice.

  • edited November 2020

    Absolutely agree with you, it was an imaginary scenario for an interesting discussion. BTW, there are some renoun photographers that employ large crews that reach that level -- and they do destination weddings that raise the cost. And for most Tauck guests it is the experience, and the intent here was to indeed affirm the use of smart phones. Another Tauck friend just emailed me a couple of photos taken with smart phones -- that appeared as magazine covers for national publication. :)

    And, you can take pictures, just locally.

    Fall, on the road to Kent.

    BSP51: in PS, added a mixed orange gradient to emphasize fall colors. Instead of just using an orange wash, the gradient adds more nuance to the image. I think it's covered at the very end of the course.

    Alan, love your fish!

  • edited November 2020

    Great story, great narrative, really enjoyed it, Cathy. As, for me, it's for fun, for remembering, for seeing what I can create, and what I can share with family and friends, some who are enthusiastic, encouraging, and some who have wanted my prints. So it's another way to give and deepen relationships.

    It's interesting what folks do with their creations. I have friends that are excellent photographers that donate their work to their churches who then sell them. I've sold some of my prints and donated the proceeds to Doctors Without Borders. So it's kind of nice to share the fruits of one's hobby -- like those lovely cutting boards of Alan's.

  • Feel free to share your images here if you wish. I will not comment on them nor modify them unless asked. As mentioned before, Tauck lowers the dots per square inch of the file you submit so that it is not really printable. But don't hold me to that. I use Lightroom to add a watermark. Steve probably knows how to do it in Photoshop. He can also export it to Tauck at 72 dpi for the same reason.

    BTW I just learned a new PS technique conversion to Black and White without losing the underlying tonal value of the colors beneath.

    Best wishes,


  • edited November 2020

    What is the fish in the fourth frame? I don't recall ever seeing that one. You had some good lighting too even though it was on the floor.

  • edited November 2020

    4:40PM edited 4:43PM
    What is the fish in the fourth frame? I don't recall ever seeing that one. You had some good lighting too even though it was on the floor.

    As you may suspect there are so many fish we never see and many fish look different depending on whether juvenile, adult, male, or female (especially parrot fish in the Galápagos.) I used to know a lot of the names, at least the tropicals around the Florida Keys, but not so much elsewhere in the world. It took me awhile to go through my photos and find the names of all of them. At least I knew the area of the world.

    I believe you are referring to the Hawkfish, Hieroglyphic Hawkfish (Giant hawkfish), to be exact. It can grow up to 24" and adults hang out on rocky reefs while juveniles stay in the shallow surge zone, where I photographed this one all the while fighting to stay still in only 18" of clear water. Since this one was only 4 - 6" long it must have been a juvenile. They usually remain motionless so are a favorite with divers and U/W photographers. I wasn't so lucky earlier when I tried to photograph the related Coral Hawkfish below. It kept darting away or hiding amongst the coral.

    Except for the body shape and fin configuration these two Blue chin parrot fish look quite different -

    I saw quite a few varieties of box fish- from the Pacific Burrfish in my earlier post above to the Pacific/Guinea Fowl Boxfish below:

    I was forced to chase many of the fish just to get a photo. I had no framer, viewfinder, or rear screen so many fish were not centered and I never got around to cropping the photos.

  • Cathy, I don’t think it’s worth buying a camera for underwater. Visibility is poor in most underwater situations for the photography unless you scuba dive. When we took our trip to the Great Barrier Reef, you could rent the cameras which is what we did. We do have a waterproof camera. We have snorkeled in Many places, including Cayman and Hawaii. Galapagos visibility’s was quite poor the two times we were there.Our favorite place and where I attempted to do a scuba course, was Malta.....I could not hack the soon as they instructed me to take off my mask underwater and clear it and put it back on...and fling my B A behind my back and find it... I was outa there....I was designed to breathe above water. In Australia, we could buy a cd of the reef with photos of ourselves in them

  • edited November 2020

    Thanks Alan,

    Would you like to try an experiment? If interested, send me one of your underwater photos and I will attempt to enhance it. Lightroom and Photoshop have a control for de-hazing, for example. So it would be fun to see if we can kick it up a notch. Or, you may prefer to leave well enough alone.

    1. If you wish to do it, pick an already clear, well-defined pic, like the hawkfish. The better the initial picture, the better the edited one.
    2. Send a copy of the original to my email address. The more pixels, the more we can do with it, the better the result.
    3. I will give it a shot in Lightroom and Photoshop, and send you the edited copy, in jpg form and a non-destructive Adobe digital negative -- a DNG file. As you may know, the problem with jpgs is that they are re-compressed and lose pixels every time they are edited and saved. Let me know how you would like it cropped.
    4. If you have suggestions and preferences for the edit, after you get it, I will do that adjust -- color, lighting, cropping, vignetting, etc.
    5. After you're satisfied, I will delete my copies of your files.

    I also like the composition on the 6th pic in that series, the two fish that look like partners, with the backlight background, going through a school of smaller fish.


  • edited November 2020

    Another local image, on the road to Kent, Connecticut
    Route 47

    Tip: Fences, railroad tracks often make for nice compositions -- leading the viewer's eye from the foreground to the background or vanishing point. Here, getting down low provides a more interesting viewing angle.

  • edited November 2020

    November 28
    Alan...did you use your camera for these underwater pictures? The only time we took underwater photos was when we rented an underwater camera in Hawaii. It was back in 1997...and I am sure things have improved since then. I have often thought about purchasing an underwater camera but I am not sure it would be worthwhile.

    I was was a competitive swimmer and fairly young, a tweener, when I first started SCUBA diving, so diving and snorkeling are second nature. It was not until I was in college that I bought the first purpose-built U/W film camera, a Nikon Nikonos IV (I wonder if it is worth anything today as an antique? :D ) There was no waterproof housing, the camera itself was waterproof, but was totally manual- guess the aperture (I eventually got an U/W meter), pick a shutter speed, and guess the distance. It had a tiny viewfinder but you couldn't use it underwater while wearing a mask, so I was forced to use a simple, plastic "framer" mounted to the top of the camera. I eventually got a very good U/W strobe light which was essential to get anything approaching decent color on anything but the sunniest days in clear water. Anyway, I eventually developed some rudimentary skills and knowledge that have long since disappeared.

    Flash ahead almost 50 years and all I have is an older GoPro. It has a fixed focus lens but has much better depth of field, has a very wide angle lens (good for U/W work), and of course built-in light metering. When we were in the Galapagos I didn't have the rear image screen accessory, so I was in the same boat as with the Nikonos as far as aiming the camera. For some dives to get as close as possible to my subjects (which is also important in U/W photography, I mounted the GoPro on a long pole- bad idea- the pole was too thin and allowed the camera to shimmy/shake as I swam. The GoPro itself takes great U/W photos and is 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of most other options.

    I used a rental U/W (Sony?) camera in Hawaii a few years ago- got lousy photos due to unfamiliarity with the camera, something funky going on with the camera, and reduced visibility. My experience can be typical. I think the biggest issue was unfamiliarity. My suggestion for anyone considering U/W photography, is unless you are familiar and comfortable with just about any digital camera or a quick study, AND a very confident snorkeler, forget about using an underwater camera. It can be many times worse than spending all your limited game drive time looking at the animals in Africa through a view-finder. You'll enjoy yourself more just marveling at the U/W landscape and interesting fish.

    I took almost no photos from the surface while snorkeling. I wore extra weights so I could dive down to the bottom in the 10' - 30' deep waters, stay there for 20 - 30 seconds (seemed like an eternity!) and return to the surface when my lungs started to burn. By the end of the session I was really tired- I ain't the swimmer or diver I once was!


    I'll send a few to you later today if I get a chance, but it may be difficult to do much with them. Almost all of them were extracted from videos. It will be interested to see if and what you can do in any case. I'll leave the the choice of manipulation up to you. Thanks. Oh, by the way, the tiny red fish were everywhere that dive- they made it hard to get clear shots. The pair of sharks are proving that sharks do not need to keep moving to breathe. Those guys were stationary the whole time I was swimming around to shoot them from other angles. I may have uploaded the video to YouTube. If I can find it I'll post a link. It is jumpy due to pole issue, but will give you an idea of what I was seeing and experiencing.

    I found it- here is a link to my* Galapagos videos:

    3 April is mostly video sequences shot by one or more of our naturalists. That is me with my camera and homemade U/W light panel and GoPro at the 9:48 mark. If you look at my waist, you'll see I'm wearing a weight belt.

    p.s. I copied your email address so you can delete it from your post- you don't want it harvested.

  • edited November 2020

    Yep, great story Alan. What a talented guy! I had thoughts of a Nikonos way back when but they were pretty expensive and I didn't have much disposable income. I did Cayman and those cheap dive motels. I imagine you've had those kinds of un-Tauck-like experiences -- with great comraderie. LOL. Night dives through caves made me really nervous though and I was probably sucking air like crazy, but were oh, so beautiful. Always worried I'd snag equipment on a overhang.

    I felt I really wouldn't get great pics. I've seen some YouTube videos of pro divers with mega bucks equipment, encased in what looked like a miniature sub . . . and decided leave it to the pros.

    Okay, skimmed Alan's YouTube videos, saw the sharks and Hawkfish. It will be interesting to see what can be done with them. I don't know how many pixels in a frame.

  • Here's something called the Weininski Effect, one can paint with light:

    It looks a lot better in high resolution, but this give an idea.

  • The results were not as dramatic as Doug's own photos, but look what he did by adding some post processing to a few photos I sent him! He'll need to tell you what he did, but it sure makes me a believer in post-processing. I can't say I have the level of interest needed to spend the money and time to purchase and learn the software, however. In hindsight, it might have been the ideal thing to do at the start of the COVID pandemic! :(

    Before uploading to the Tauck website, these photos really took a long journey to their current form- I shot underwater videos with a GoPro Hero 3+ (now they are up to Hero9! The new versions have really good digital image stabilization which I sorely needed.) Using the free basic GoPro editing software I extracted peg format stills in video frames that had the least amount of motion blurr. I did not do any post processing. Yesterday I attached them to an email which I sent to Doug so he could experiment. Below are some of my originals and versions where Doug worked his magic. While Doug really improved the appearance of all of them, I think the most dramatic (color saturation and lighting) was the one with the Blue Chin Parrot Fish swimming with a group of Yellow Tail Surgeon Fish and to a slightly lesser extent, the resting White Tip Reef Sharks. What do you all think?

    Blue Chin Parrot Fish

    Doug's version:

    Hieroglyphic Hawkfish

    Doug's version:

    Blue Chin Parrot Fish with group of Yellow Tail Surgeon Fish

    Doug's version:

    Resting Sharks:

    Doug's version:

  • edited November 2020

    Alan, this is nothing compared to your dedication to your own hobbies. Anyway, pick one of the images, send me your address, and I will print it for you.

    I think post-processing is great for UW photos, but perhaps not as extreme as I did them. My wife feels they are too unnatural.

    But UW are inherently difficult because of the dispersion of light and particulate "fog" -- so de-hazing them and pushing them seems great when you don't have a $10,000 nat geo underwater rig!


  • How come those long thorns don't bother it?

  • I was voing ot joke and say maybe it’s fake. But I likely saw the same leopards at the Mount Safari club ‘zoo’

  • edited December 2020

    Righto -- MSC zoo shot. He kept running about up there and my wife was trying to get me to move on. I dunno. Maybe the thorns keep him on his toes. :D

    BTW, I don't know if anybody noticed, but that's a good example of moving around on your feet to change camera angle and frame the head between the branches.

  • How close were you to him?

  • Terrible at distances -- 30 feet?

  • Majestic Mt. Rainier at 14,411 feet, taken from roughly 39,000 feet (at least that is what the pilot broadcast) on an amazingly clear day for this time of the year in the Pacific Northwest.

  • These leopards were in a cage.when we went in December, we were standing right next to a leopard there

  • Manual or auto focus? Need a narrow spot for auto focus.

  • One of my favorites; printed on hand-made Japanese rice paper with mulberry fibers strewn through it.

    Itsukushima Torii

  • My husband has been there!

  • edited December 2020

    One of my favorite destinations. But, my wife has family there. We wander around on our own after a tour but can't speak the language. And finding an address is nuts -- I hear they number homes by when the building was built. I read the reason the fax machine was invented and became popular there was to fax maps to people you wanted to invite to your home.

    I printed the Itsukushima bride on a hand-made Japanese rice paper, strewn with mulberry fibers. The fibers show up and add complexity to the bride's wedding kimono. Crazy-expensive paper to print on though.

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