When my wife told me that she was headed to Seattle for work, I knew immediately that I was going to tag along with her and make a side trip to the Palouse region of Eastern Washington. Most people may not be familiar with that name, but they’ve definitely seen photos of the area. Brilliant green, lush, rolling hills of tall wheat that seem to go on forever. Baby blue skies with fluffy white clouds. The surreal image on your Windows desktop. Yet it’s as real as can be, and it exists right there in Washington, just west of the Idaho border.
The Palouse Scenic Byway stretches 208 miles, weaving in and out of these amazing green hills of wheat. Some of the farm towns along the way include Colfax, Palouse, and Pullman, where I made my home base for the week. I took my little Nissan Versa rental and left Seattle early Monday morning to make the 4.5 hour trek eastbound. Only it took me about 6.5 hours because I stopped every 20 minutes to take photos.
I spent the next three days driving my Versa on every dirt road in the county, and then some. Like every trip I take, I spent the prior weeks scouting locations from the comfort of my own home, mainly via Google Maps. I created a custom map with about twenty places I wanted to explore and used my iPhone to help me navigate through countless dirt roads. Every now and then, I’d find a beautiful red barn or an old beat-up truck, and I’d just pull over on the side of the road and start shooting. Sometimes, I’d shoot for 30 minutes without even seeing one car.
I could have easily spent an entire week in the Palouse, but I had to be back in Seattle by Friday afternoon, and I still had another place I wanted to visit. About an hour and half west of Pullman lies Palouse Falls State Park. While people visit the park to hike, grill, and camp, the main feature is the grand waterfall that drops almost 200 feet into a swirling pool below. I was absolutely blown away that such an amazing waterfall exists within this canyon out there in the middle of nowhere. I spent a few hours hiking around the falls, waiting for the best light and trying out different angles. I wanted to stay after twilight to get some star trails, but the clouds were too thick to see anything. So around 9PM, I headed north to my hotel in Ritzville before making my way back to Seattle the next morning.
My four days in the Palouse were definitely memorable. And while I’ll still say that Bora Bora is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, strangely enough the Palouse region is almost as pleasing to the eye, albeit in a different way.
Here’s a full gallery from the trip.
One of the several excursions we took during our trip to Bora Bora was a 30-minute helicopter tour. This was at the top of my list of things to do there. It was a little bit pricey, but well worth it.
The InterContinental has its own helipad on the property, so we took a short ride with the concierge on a golf cart and within minutes we were in the air. The pilot flew us out to a small neighboring island called Tupai, which is famous for its heart shape. Normally, we would have been able to fly at a higher altitude to get a nice overhead shot of the island, but the clouds were pretty thick that day and the pilot said it was better not to go too high up. So we circled Tupai and saw the lone house where the island’s keepers live. We then flew across the open ocean back to Bora Bora and began an amazing tour of the most beautiful island in the Pacific.
I spent 90% of the tour watching the LCD on the back of my D800 to make sure I was getting good focus and proper exposures, so it was kind of bitter sweet. But it was definitely worth every dime and I’m so thrilled that we had a chance to do this tour. Unfortunately, I think I’m now hooked on aerial photography and my wallet isn’t too happy about that.
When Inna said yes to my proposal back in February of 2011, one of the first things we agreed upon was the location of our honeymoon… Bora Bora. It’s always been at the top of my list of destinations. And although it took almost a year after getting married, we finally made it happen.
(In case you don’t feel like reading about the trip and you want to skip straight to the pics, here’s a direct link to the full gallery of photos from Bora Bora.)
Getting to Bora Bora from Atlanta isn’t quick. It’s a five-hour flight to LA, three-hour layover at LAX, eight hours to Tahiti, an overnight stay there, another hour or so flight to Bora Bora the next day, and finally a twenty-minute boat ride to the InterContinental Thalasso. Once you get there, you truly are on the opposite side of the planet, and it sure feels that way.
The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa is one of the top resorts on the island, along with the Four Seasons and St. Regis. It’s absolutely stunning and I’m so glad that we chose this resort over the others. From a photographer’s perspective, it turned out to be perfect because the InterContinental has the best angle of all the resorts of Mount Otemanu. We were upgraded to one of the best overwater bungalows available, so the view from our deck was unbeatable. I can’t say enough about the resort, and if you’re actually planning a trip to Bora Bora, you should read my review on Trip Advisor. I can’t imagine any of the other resorts being any better than the IC Thalasso.
All images Copyright © 2013 David Kosmos Smith
During our eight days there, we took several excursions. The first was a 4x4 jeep safari on the main island of Bora Bora. We got into the back of an open jeep with three other couples and headed up into the mountains. Moana was an awesome tour guide and made sure we had a blast sitting in the back of that jeep. He showed us coconut farms, a Tahitian pearl farm, and leftover American bunkers scattered throughout the island from WWII. It was a great way to learn about the history of the island and the local culture.
Our next excursion was a 30-minute helicopter tour of the island. Our pilot showed us an amazing birds-eye view of Bora Bora and even took us out to a small neighboring island called Tupai, which is unique for its heart-like shape. I’ll include my aerial shots from this trip in a later post.
Our third trip was a private snorkeling tour with yet another amazing guide, Alfonse. This may have been the most memorable tour as I nearly lost my right hand to a blacktip shark. We had several stops on this tour. The first was a little spot where people come to swim with stingrays and blacktips. It was a little crazy being completely surrounded by thirty or so sharks and maybe just as many stingrays. But the fear subsided fairly quickly and it was a lot of fun to swim with them.
The next stop was a coral garden and the main attractions here were two moray eels. Alfonse coaxed the larger one to come out of his hiding hole with some food, but the second smaller one was a bit more aggressive with us. He came at me, snaking through the water with his mouth wide open, and he wouldn’t back down. I pushed my Ikelite underwater housing at him, hoping to scare him off. He didn’t care, and he kept coming. I ended up kicking my flippers at him to make him back away.
Next up was swimming with lemon sharks. Because of my longtime obsession with marine life, I’ve always known what lemon sharks were. What I didn’t know was how big they get. We ventured outside the surrounding reef and into the open ocean to a spot where some lemons usually hang out. As we pulled up, a bunch of blacktips approached the boat and I ignorantly put my GoPro into the water, hoping to get some nice video of the sharks. I had my hand just under the surface of the water and I thought the hull of the boat was protecting me from any sharks underneath us, but with all the action going on, I must have dipped my hands too deep and a nice blacktip saw the GoPro shining in the sunlight. He came out of nowhere and decided to take a bite, but the tip of his nose smacked my right hand and I was able to pull back quick enough. Keep in mind, this all happened before I was to jump in and swim with the massive lemon sharks. Alfonse took the plunge first and laughingly called for me to join him. At this point, I was a bit more nervous than I would have been if that blacktip didn’t just scare the shit out of me. Hesitantly, I stepped down the ladder into the royal blue waters and I looked straight down. Two fat eight-foot lemon sharks circled below. I didn’t venture too far away from the ladder, but Alfonse didn’t think twice to dive down to them, even grabbing one’s dorsal fin lightly and going for a short ride. Now, I’ve stood fishing in chest deep water with some small three or four-foot sharks cruising by me in Destin, Florida, and never felt an ounce of fear. But this was on a totally different level. These sharks were huge and they were circling five to ten feet below my feet. Talk about adrenaline rush. Bucket list: check.
The three excursions we went on were incredible, but even exploring the island on our own schedule was just as amazing. Bora Bora is truly a photographer’s heaven. Everywhere you look, there’s a beautiful shot just waiting to be taken. The sunsets each night were insane with rich cotton candy colors, the water as blue as you can imagine, and the clear night skies showed off the infinite number of stars in the universe. This was paradise in its truest definition. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to find a more perfect place on Earth, and I’m not sure that I want to. I couldn’t have asked for a better honeymoon and I’m glad it happened in a place that I’ll never forget.
Copyright © 2013 David Kosmos Smith
A few weeks ago, the Georgia Dome contacted me to see if I would shoot a massive time-lapse of the stadium’s transformation from an NFL football game on a Thursday night to the SEC Championship Game two days later on Saturday afternoon. Being a huge Falcons fan and longtime season ticket holder, I was definitely in!
I got a chance to tour the Dome before setting everything up so I could see what I was in for. I decided I would set up two cameras on the catwalk high above the action and leave them there for three days. I would then take my third camera on a tripod and walk around the stadium before and during the game to get other angles of the action and the crowd.
On Thursday, November 29th, the New Orleans Saints came to town to battle the Atlanta Falcons for a primetime game on the NFL Network. The game started at 8:20PM, so I got to the stadium early to set everything up. I put my D300 with a fisheye lens on a corner of the catwalk using a Gorillapod. I then had my D7000 with a Tokina 11-16mm set up at the 50 yard line with a Manfrotto Magic Arm and Super Clamp. I shot everything in RAW to maintain high quality in case I wanted to do some movements in post. I also wasn’t sure how much the lighting would change inside from 8PM to mid-afternoon. The bad thing about shooting RAW in this situation is that the cameras were shooting nonstop for three days straight. Lots and lots of megabytes. Gigabytes, actually.
I wasn’t going to be able to get up on the catwalk once the game started, so I needed to set everything up to last at least the duration of the game. We also wanted to see the Dome fill up in the final video, so I would start the time-lapse at 6PM when the gates opened. After some quick math, I decided to shoot both cameras at 23-second intervals, which would give me a little over six hours of shooting and I wouldn’t hit the maximum exposures of 999, which is all the Nikons allow for in interval timer shooting.
After those two cameras were set up, I took another D7000 with a Tokina 11-16mm and a Nikon 24-70mm and walked around the exterior of the Dome to get some shots of the crowd coming in for the game. Once the game was about to begin, I went inside and tried to get as many different angles of the action as I could. Being such a big fan of my Falcons, it was definitely hard to focus on shooting rather than watching the Birds beat the Aints. (Ahhh, what a great night that was!)
After the game was over, I went back up to the catwalk to swap out for fresh batteries and memory cards. I changed my settings to 30-second intervals so that the cameras would last for eight hours instead of only six. I ended up having to go back to the Dome every eight hours to change out batteries and cards. During those eight hour breaks at home, I imported all the images and started the editing process so I could get a headstart on everything.
On Saturday, the Alabama Crimson Tide took on the Georgia Bulldogs for the SEC Championship title. I went back to the Dome at 8AM to do a quick swap, and then back again at noon to begin shooting. The game didn’t start until 4PM, but I knew there would be a huge crowd tailgaiting. This was SEC football, after all. The sky was beautiful that day, so I got some good shots of the Dome with plenty of clouds going by. I went into the stadium at around 3PM to start getting interior crowd shots, and then spent the remainder of the game walking around the club level to find the best angles of the field.
After a little more than 48 hours, I was done capturing all the photos I needed. I ended up with more than 30,000 RAW images. There were a lot of clips that didn’t get used because I couldn’t fit them into the final video.
Here are some photos of my setups at the Dome as well as a few other randoms.
Finally finished my time-lapse of the Georgia Dome, spanning a little over 48 hours, two football games, and a massive transformation of a 70,000+ capacity stadium. Lots of photos, lots of hard drive space, lots of editing… but lots of fun to do. Hope you enjoy it!
We went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden last night to see their Garden Lights show. Every year for the holiday season, they set up some beautiful light displays throughout the garden and it makes for a gorgeous evening walk. I definitely recommend seeing it if you’re a local or just visiting town.
Here are a few photos I took last night.
Not long after Georgia Tech asked me to shoot a time-lapse of one of their football games, they asked me to shoot another one of the school’s inaugural basketball game at the newly renovated McCamish Pavilion.
I went to the arena a few days before the game to find some good vantage points. I set up my D300 + Tokina 11-16mm lens with a Gorillapod in the press box, and then I walked around the arena during the game with my D7000 + Tokina 11-16 and a tripod.
It’s been a lot of fun to shoot these sports events as time-lapses. They’ve been quite challenging because you really have to be on your toes, and I was constantly running from point to point trying to get shots of the action. Little did I know that I would soon be doing another sports-related time-lapse! I’m currently editing a big one that spanned three days. LOTS of photos to stitch together (30,887 to be exact) and I’ll hopefully have it ready here in the next week. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, here’s the basketball time-lapse. Hope you enjoy!
Well, I was actually there for six days, to be exact. Stayed at the Woodmark Hotel & Spa in Kirkland, which is just across Lake Washington from Seattle. I had been to Seattle once before, but only for like a day, so this was basically my first trip there.
I used Google Maps to do some location scouting beforehand and created a customized map with pins of all the places I wanted to check out. Combined with an iPhone, it makes for a pretty handy tool for photographers in an unfamiliar city.
I also had a friend that lives in Seattle to show me around. Stevan is an old sushi chef that used to work for me back in my restaurant biz days. He moved out to Seattle four years ago and recently took up a job at Shiro’s Sushi. Shiro Kashiba is a former apprentice of the famous sushi master Jiro Ono from the Japanese documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Jiro also had another protégé, Daisuke Nakazawa, who is known in the film as the one who made over 200 trays of tamago before finally getting it right. Well, Daisuke has also recently taken a job at Shiro’s, and we were able to sit in front of him and sample his version of what he’s learned from the master.
My buddy Stevan!
Daisuke Nakazawa from Jiro Dreams of Sushi
In the following days, I visited Seattle’s main attractions, like the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and Kerry Park, as well as some other spots off the beaten path. Stevan was kind enough to drive me all over town to get some amazing views of Seattle. He even took me to Bruce and Brandon Lee’s grave site at Lake View Cemetery, which was pretty cool to see.
We were definitely lucky with the weather while we were there. Six days there and I may have been caught in a total of an hour or two of rain the entire time. I even bought a Kata rain sleeve thinking I wouldn’t survive the week without one. Never used it once.
Definitely loved Seattle. Awesome city, beautiful scenery, great food. I hope to go back again and maybe do some fishing next time!
Here are some of the photos I ended up with. Probably have a few more that I’ll edit, and I shot a ton of time-lapse clips as well. I’ll try and put something together over the next few weeks. Enjoy!
An amazing little hole in the wall called Thai Tom…
… with some of the best pad Thai ever.
Recently, I was asked by the Georgia Tech Athletic Department to shoot a time-lapse of one of their football games. Sounded like a lot of fun, so I took them up on it. It was a lot of fun, a little challenging, but all-in-all a good day.
I set up my D300 in the press box with my Tokina 11-16mm lens. I then walked around the stadium with my D7000 on a tripod trying to get closer shots of the field, the players, the fans, and all the action.
Here’s what I came up with. Hope you enjoy!
Finishing my “EuroLapse” project has motivated me to start working on another time lapse project. This time, I’m going to feature my hometown, Atlanta! I’m hoping to use some dolly movements for this project as it wasn’t possible to carry all that extra gear around Europe for three months.
I’m planning on incorporating some of Atlanta’s best views and major icons, such as the CNN Center, World of Coca Cola, Stone Mountain, etc. My first shots were taken at Bobby Dodd Stadium yesterday, right here in midtown. I was fortunate enough to gain access to the stands and ended up getting a nice thunderstorm rolling through the city last night.
I’m super pumped about this project and can’t wait to start getting some of these shots down. Unfortunately, I’ll be in Florida for the next few weeks, so I won’t be able to shoot in Atlanta for a while. But, I’m hoping to have this done sometime around the end of summer.