30 July 2018

More About Planning My Trip Up the Amazon River

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” 
– Sir Richard Burton

In March, I wrote about traveling up the Amazon River and at the time, I had no real knowledge on how I was going to do it. I'm happy to report I've come closer to some solutions for the "planning stage" that are viable, practical, and a most-likely scenario.

So I'll start this South America venture, early September in Colombia, flying into Cartagena, playing around there and up north, before coming back through Medellin and Bogota. The plan is to be there for about a month. Now my previous problem was figuring out where I'd begin the Amazon trip and here is what I have figured out.

1. I'm not going to do ALL of the Amazon River. Just half of it.
2. I'm starting in the heart of the Amazon Rain Forest in Manaus.
3. I'm going UP the Amazon instead of DOWN.
4. October is a good time to do it, just before the heavy rains hit.

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

So here's the theory on all that. Once you get past Manaus, the Amazon really opens up when it merges with the Rio Negro. You're talking 5 miles or more across and when you're going downstream, the boats tend to stay in the center to save fuel. Its hard to tell the difference from being out at sea when you've got a couple miles between you and the shoreline. Conversely, going upstream, they stay closer to the banks to avoid the faster moving opposing currents in the center. Starting in Manaus and going upstream is still a 1500 mile trip over close to 10 days depending on the boat. Manaus is a million population strong city in the heart of the rainforest. I think it'll be a good decision to explore it for a week and find my boat there.

My initial plan was to fly there from Cartagena, but that's an $800 one way ticket that can take up to 30 hours. I've found another route that splits that cost to less than half that, by flying out of Bogota to either Rio de Janeiro or Sau Paulo first. I can stay a few days there and then fly from either of those cities to Manaus. Flight time is greatly reduced to maybe 5 hours total direct flight time. I like this option way better. Point goes to "Research"!

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” 
– Ibn Battuta

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

From Manaus, is where it gets a bit tricky. The boat ride itself does not seem very fun. I think you have to MAKE it fun. Hopefully, I'll have a model with me to shoot to help with that. Don't ask me who or how, cuz I have no clue at this point. On top of that, the plan was to boat to Iquitos, Peru and stay in a that treehouse resort they have for a few nights and proceed on upriver into Ecuador. However, I just realized, that price for $700 double occupancy for 3 days/2 nights is PER PERSON, which is ridiculous.  $900 for that same deal if you are by yourself. I can't see it. Not as I presently understand it, anyways. I have to check into that a little more. Interestingly enough, at that point, I will have traversed borders via plane, bus, walking, and then by boat. Nope...nope...I've done boat before. Forgot about Belize to Guatemala. So now I have yet to cross a border by...um, subway? No, HORSE!

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

21 July 2018

Finally Editing Again

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley
"Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."
~ Gustave Flaubert

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley
I'm grateful that I'm finally able to edit photos and work on a decent laptop. As I mentioned in the last blog post, I ordered the Gigabyte Aero 15X. Its beautiful, lightweight, fast, and I'm very happy with it. I've almost finished with customizing it to the way I like a laptop to work. I've got Adobe loaded on it, but I've only installed a single Plugin of the usual ones I normally work with. If I'm going to have anything, it's gotta be the Nik Collection that is now being distributed under DxO Labs, who took it over from Google. I still wonder if DxO Labs will really continue to develop this plugin or just roll it into their own PhotoLab editing software. They have already incorporated the Nik U-Point technology into PhotoLab. Nik is now available for $70.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Of course, that also means I have a lot of edits to catch up on. I can tell you the feeling of 8 months worth of shots to even look through feels daunting and slightly overwhelming. At the same time though, there are some that I've eagerly been awaiting to get to work on. Namely, these shots you see here of @kayci.lee from January as she traveled with me from Nicaragua up to Guatemala. The horse ranch shoot was definitely my favorite time of her entire visit. It was quite remarkable to get her up on those Andalusian horses and get some shots. @kayci.lee 's efforts paid off handsomely to make that contact to get us access to that ranch.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
~ Mark Twain

Shooting on Nicaragua's Little Corn Island didn't work out as well as we had hoped. Despite being there during the peak of the dry season, somehow a weather phenomenon caused a deluge to drench us during our entire 5-day stay. Our clothes never dried out even a bit and actually began to mildew by the time we left. A few days in the hot El Salvadorean sun fixed that problem. These things happen and sometimes seemingly often. We stayed in 10 different hotels/hostels over almost 5 weeks. Something is bound to go wrong at some point. We ran into a 5 day storm during dry season. This is where they say you have to take the good with the bad. You can plan all you want but sometimes things are out of your control and you either roll with the punches or you'll spend your days frustrated and a great trip can end up fraught with mishaps because you're not flexible enough to maintain a good attitude. Plan as best you can and then just do your best. After that, deal with what's before you and make the best of things. The world is not obligated to be considerate of your itinerary.

Yes, we are watching Ice Age 3 in the last photo. You can't tell me you wouldn't have also taken that shot.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

11 July 2018

Five Older Cameras that are Still Worth a Look

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley
I've been saying I was going to write about this for months. There are a few good cameras out there that have been UP-dated, but not quite OUT-dated. Know what I mean? Wanna find a good used camera but not sure on where to start? Or maybe you already have ONE good camera but need a good deal on a second body. Then again, you could be like me and already have TWO good bodies, but you keep running into situations where you need a good camera that you don't mind so much if it gets beat up or wet.

Canon 7D

The Canon 7D came out in the fall of 2009 and remained in production for 5 years. I can't recall exactly when I bought mine,  but I'll speculate sometime around 2010, which sounds about right. This camera was built like a tank and like a tank, it was hard to kill, short of dropping it in the pool or actually running it over...both of which I've seen done.

The main reason you'll still enjoy this thing is that it takes a great picture with its 18mp APS-C sensor and could shoot at 8 frames per second. Even in 2018, this camera will still be more than most people will ever need in a camera. The shutter on this thing is rated at 150,000 actuations. You can do a shutter count on a perspective camera and you'll likely see you still have a long shutter life remaining.

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Canon 60D

This camera has gotten a lot of use, so make sure you get it checked out or ensure it comes with some sort of certification/warranty with your purchase. Just about every 60D I have ever seen looks worn and used and that's why if you can find one and its working...get it. This camera hold up to a beating. This is an especially good camera if you're looking to video. It can do 1080p at 30fps or 720 at 60. The LCD rotates out to help you get your shot at low or high angles.

Sony a6000

Now this is the first mirrorless camera on this list and it came out mid-2014, so its 4 years old. Get this, though. Its STILL in production! Yes. Sony has upgraded this model twice and the 3rd model release is expected any month now. I'd say its the best bet on this entire list. Incredibly light-weight, with a 24mp cropped sensor and blasting at 11 frames per second. And the price is around $600 new. Find a used one for half that.

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Nikon D7000

A close 2nd to the Canon 7D, the Nikon D7000 is a very capable system to work with. I love the dual memory card slots and the battery lasts forever, seems like. At 16mp, you can get some great astrophotography with an ISO as high as 6400. I don't recommend the expanded ISO modes so much though. It also has a built in Intervelometer which Nikon started adding in to several camera bodies at this point. It takes a picture just as good as the Canon 7D.

Nikon D3400

Now, the above recommended cameras are all what you might call, prosumer-level positioned for photo-enthusiasts. The D3400 was made inexpensively for photo beginners and is a consumer-level product. What sets this camera apart is the sensor. At this point in 2016, Nikon came out like mad with a well-made 24mp sensor. No one had ever delivered something with that kind or resolution on a consumer level product. New, this camera was about $600 with up to a $100 off around the holidays. You can find them for $200 used and the camera is only 2 years old.

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Bonus: Fujifilm X-E2

The X-E2 is another mirrorless camera that made its debut late 2013. Its uses more dials than buttons and switches. There's a dial for shutter speed and the aperture dial is usually on the lens, depending on the lens. It is my most favorite camera on this entire list. Mine was submerged in the Pacific. THE PACIFIC!! And it still came back to life. You can't do that with a Canon 7D. Fuji uses a totally different sensor technology that most other manufacturers, so the overall look is different. It actually has more of a film personality and feel.

Its built like a Rangefinder style camera and the silver edition is terribly beautiful with a retro Leica kind of style. For a cropped 16mp sensor, I was stunned when I did a fashion shoot with it and compared some of my images to my 36mp Nikon D800E. Amazingly, I would have had zero added benefit had I done that shoot with the Nikon instead of the X-E2. I know. It makes no sense, but the results proved the worth of that Fuji to me.