Tančící Dům at Twilight

Apologies for my lack of updates over the last few months.  I have not been shooting much at all.  I have shot a few images, and published some older images which were worth a visit.

In the mean time, here’s a new image from a mid-year shoot.

A view of Tančící Dům (the Dancing House) in Prague, at twilight.

Tančící Dům at Twilight

Tančící Dům at Twilight

This is a slightly different composition to my earlier image of this unique building.

Here, more of the intersecting roads can be seen, and despite outward appearances, it is not as deserted as it looks.

It was a matter of timing to avoid cars and trams; but a careful look will reveal the streak of a car’s tail lights as the vehicle passed through my frame.

Views of Prague at Twilight

It is hard to believe, but it has been over a month since our trip to Prague.

While it was a short European getaway for only a few days, photographically, it was very productive and rewarding, and I certainly landed a few pleasing images in that short time.

Life has been quite busy since then, and I have unfortunately neglected to post about some of my images; so, below are the two images I captured on our first twilight in Prague.

Charles Bridge by Night

Charles Bridge by Night

From a photographer’s viewpoint, no trip to Prague would be complete without capturing an image of the iconic Charles Bridge at night.

The Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is a bridge in gothic architectural style, which was named after the esteemed King Charles IV.  It runs across the Vlatva from the Old Town to the Lesser Town, and is major route to Prague Castle up on the hill, adjacent to St Vitus Cathedral.

In summer, during the day, and indeed for much of the night, Charles Bridge is crammed with tourists and street merchants selling all manner of souvenirs.

Here is a view along Charles Bridge towards the Lesser Town on the other side, and Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral in the distance.

Praha Twilight

Praha Twilight

We had encountered this location earlier during the day on a four-hour walking tour of Prague, and I decided that it would be a good location for a shoot at twilight.

Despite the hoardes of tourists in the area, this easily accessible spot allows for a fairly uninterrupted view along the north side of Charles Bridge, plus the still reflections of the shoreline on the Vlatva.

Travel and Tripod Tales of Woe

Last week we flew into Tel Aviv via Hong Kong.

The airlines unfortunately left half the HGK-TLV flight’s luggage in Hong Kong, including all our clothes, and my tripod — a Manfrotto MT293A4 and 494RC2 travel tripod combo I had specifically bought for this trip.

The morning after we arrived, we had to go buy a new tripod, and new clothes, as we were flying to Prague the same night, and there was no way on Earth our luggage would be here by the time we needed to leave.

I bought a Vanguard VEO 235AB travel tripod at a camera shop ten minutes from here.  I’ve never used that brand before, but it is a nice little tripod which, as it turned out, handled the job well.  I will probably leave it here in Tel Aviv so that I don’t need to carry a tripod the next time we visit.

So, there we were, in Prague, at our hotel, after yet another annoying flight.  I decided to set up my tripod for the next day’s photography, so I unpacked it.

The ball head has a quick release plate, which I attempted to install, only to discover that a pin protrudes from the base of the mounting plate.  No problem, as according to the manual, the tripod included an Allen key to adjust it.  I took out the Allen key, and then discovered that the screw to adjust the pin actually takes a flat-head screwdriver, not an Allen key!

The Allen key is also used to adjust the tension on the leg hinges, but naturally, the Allen key supplied was too small.

Not only did I have the world’s most useless Allen key, but I also needed a flat-head screwdriver, which I naturally did not have.

Fortunately, despite the pin obstructing the quick release plate from sliding all the way onto the mount, there was enough space for it to be securely held, so I was able to use it after all.

Phew.

Our luggage did eventually turn up in Tel Aviv, but we were well and truly in Prague by then.

So now I have two travel tripods.

Morals of the story:

  1. Airlines do occasionally misplace/lose/delay luggage.
  2. Procure travel insurance (we did, and we will claim, as well as seek compensation from the airline).
  3. Keep multiple tripods in strategic locations (y’know, like spies do with passports, cash and pistols).
  4. When buying a new tripod, check that it is all ready to go before you have gone.
  5. Know the locations of camera shops at your destinations.

Dancing House, Prague

Prague’s famous Dancing House was one of sights I wanted to see and photograph.

I planned to photograph the Dancing House on our last night in Prague, so we headed 1.2km south of our hotel, where I positioned myself for the image I wanted, once the light was right.

Here is the image I sought out to capture:

Dancing House

Dancing House

This unusual, modern building starkly contrasts with the surrounding architecture, and certainly makes for an interesting image.

I am pleased that I had the chance to both see and photograph the Dancing House in ideal blue hour light.

Vítejte v Praze (Welcome to Prague)

We have arrived in Prague, and spent our first day wandering around.

The day began with a 5am awakening as usual.  We decided to take advantage of the serenity of the dawn hours in a European city and wander out to the Charles Bridge, which is a five-minute walk from the Charles Bridge Palace, where we are staying.

The morning was cloudy and dull, and indeed, it had rained the previous night before we arrived at the airport.

At any rate, it was worth wandering around to see what we could find, and I captured a few images.

Incidentally, the last image I captured from the Charles Bridge was the most compelling of the series.  This is it:

Vítejte v Praze

Vítejte v Praze

This image was captured at 6:22am.  While the Charles Bridge, and indeed Prague itself, is extremely busy during European high season, this time of the morning was quiet, but there were still numerous photographers and tourists dotted along the bridge — certainly nothing like the chaos going on there right now.

This view looks westward toward the Little Quarter (or Lesser Town), and was taken not far from the end of the bridge.  The main feature past the arch is the gothic Little Quarter Bridge Tower.  On the far right is St Vitus Cathedral, adjacent to Prague Castle, both of which we visited this afternoon.

Despite the drab light, I am quite pleased with this image — it certainly came out better than I expected, and I love the cobblestones on the bridge leading towards the distinctly Eastern European architecture.

So far, from what we have seen of Prague, it is a beautiful city.  To its detriment is the crowds and the tacky tourist stuff everywhere, which starkly clashes with the old-world charm Prague otherwise has.

Just from the many hours of walking around Prague today, there are so many photographic opportunities; but as we are only here for a few days, I will not even scratch the surface of what Prague has to offer, but culturally and photographically.

Tonight, after dinner, I am heading back out to shoot some twilight views of Prague.  Hopefully I will capture something special.

New Backpack and Tripod

It is not very often that I discuss photography gear, but given that I purchased a few new items of gear today, I figured it was worth relating the story.

Soon enough, we are heading overseas on a trip to Israel, followed by a small sojourn to the Czech Republic for a few days.

As is always the case when travelling abroad, I bring a camera rig.  While this is not specifically a photographic trip, I certainly intend to engage in some twilight cityscaping in Prague, and may even have time for the odd cityscape in Tel Aviv or Caesarea.

My go-to camera bag for most of my photography (other than wildlife, which calls for the big lenses), is my Lowepro Nova 190 AW.  It is a shoulder bag, and I have a fairly standard array of equipment permanently packed in it, which covers most of my shooting needs, and certainly the needs I will have on this upcoming trip.  This bag has travelled internationally twice now.

However, as is also always the case when travelling internationally, I take my laptop, which has its own bag.  This time we are travelling somewhat lighter, and rather than carrying my camera gear in the Nova 190 AW, and my laptop in its own carry bag, I wanted one bag in the form of a backpack which would accommodate both.

A few months ago I discovered the Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II backpack when looking in a camera shop one day.  This bag seemed to fit the bill nicely.

It has a laptop compartment which will accommodate a 15″ laptop (according to the specifications), a lower compartment (with dividers) which will accommodate a large DSLR with a 70-200/2.8 mounted, plus another medium-sized lens or two; and it also has an upper compartment which will accommodate anything else, including non-photography equipment.

Today I decided to buy a Fastpack BP 250 AW II.  Now, my laptop is a 17″ MacBook Pro, but having compared its specifications with the backpack’s specifications, it fits.  I took the MacBook Pro with me to the store, and verified that it actually does fit — it does.

So, that solved a definite problem, and has given me a comfortably-sized, airline cabin-friendly backpack which will allow me to remain hands-free whilst traversing airports, fit my camera gear and laptop in one bag, and have room for other things such as a water bottle, light jacket or other day-trip equipment.  This will be perfect for walking around Prague.  Additionally, it has a tripod compartment on the side, along with a strap for keeping the tripod in place.

This brings me to my next subject: tripods.

I am rather accustomed to larger tripods, particularly as I have a few heavy lenses and both want and need the height, stability and load-bearing capability they provide.

A few years ago I toyed with the idea of buying a smaller tripod for travelling, but did not quite find something I liked, or something which gave me much confidence, as I was wary of smaller, lighter tripods.  Additionally, they were rather expensive for what they were.

After buying the Fastpack BP 250 AW II today, I browsed around the store, and found a Manfrotto combination of a 290-series set of legs (Manfrotto T293A4) and a ball head (Manfrotto 494RC2).

I played with the tripod for maybe ten or fifteen minutes as I mentally debated whether it was suitable.  While it’s certainly not as tall as my Manfrotto 055XPROB, or even my 2005-vintage Manfrotto 190D, it is tall enough, and the extension of the centre column will give sufficient extra height if necessary.  The legs have four sections and quick release clips, which is definitely desirable.

The ball head was also quite nice, and as with all my other Manfrotto heads, it accommodates the Manfrotto 200PL quick release plate.

Soon enough I decided to buy it.  The salesperson advised me that it was a discontinued model, and as it appeared to be the last unit and lacked both the quick release plate and packaging, he gave me a nice discount.

So, now I have a suitable, light-weight but sturdy tripod which can be taken on international trips, which reduces the bulk and weight of what I am carrying, and nicely attaches to the side of my newest camera backpack.  For the kinds of photography this trip will present, this rig is more than enough to suit my needs, and it will also be quite suitable for other photographic outings locally and inter-state.

Booked: Trip to Israel and the Czech Republic

Later this year we are travelling to Israel for a wedding, but since we will be within close proximity to many other destinations, it made a lot of sense to also plan a mini-holiday somewhere else nearby.

While there are some fantastic places in the world which are worth re-visiting, what is more appealing is the notion of visiting a place we have not previously visited.

Over a number of months, the main destinations we considered were Dublin (Ireland), Budapest (Hungary) and Prague (Czech Republic).

Today we decided on Prague, and while booking flights to Israel, we also booked flights to Prague.  We have both been to Europe before, but in my case, I had never been to Eastern Europe.

By all accounts, Prague is a beautiful city, so I am looking forward to not only seeing Prague, but capturing some cityscape and architectural images of the Czech Republic’s capital city.

It has been nearly 16 years since I last visited Europe, so I am looking forward to seeing it again, and hopefully landing some pleasing images.