landscape

A Spontaneous Adventure to the Rockies by Ricardo Seah

Spontaneous Overnight Photo-trip to Banff

First stop on the photography checklist. Photographing Moraine Lake as the sun is setting.

First stop on the photography checklist. Photographing Moraine Lake as the sun is setting.

From deserts and canyons of Arizona to the cool and lush Canadian Rocky Mountains. Here’s a little summary of my latest spontaneous adventure to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. 


Q&A Time

But Ricardo haven’t you been to the Rockies before?

Yes! And the thing is I can never get enough of it! It’s just such a beautiful and picturesque place. Literally everywhere you turn is a photo opportunity and its a place you can keep returning to because the seasons change and theres always a new location to shoot.

How long was this adventure? 

It was literally a 2 Days 1 Night spontaneous adventure

So where in the Rockies did you go to this time?

 

This time I visited Banff and due to the time constrain only managed to photograph a few locations. The primary objective of this trip was to photograph Moraine Lake at sunset and sunrise the following day. 

The secondary objective was to photograph other lakes within Banff such as Peyto Lake and  the famous Lake Louise. 


Here are some of my shots from Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake and Lake Louise

My tips for photographing the Rockies during this time of year:

  • Have a tripod.

    • I cannot stress this point enough. Especially if you want the best sunset-landscape or astrophotography shots, you are going to need a proper tripod. Do yourself a favour and invest in a good one, not that cheap plastic/tacky ones. The last thing you want is for your tripod to fail on you and have a tripod leg break during your trip (just ask my buddy @guangyow whose old tripod broke while doing astrophotography).  

  • Bring gloves and dress appropriately.

    • Although I brought the right attire and shoes, I’ll admit, I totally forgot to bring gloves. And because of this my hands were absolutely freezing especially since my tripod was made of metal. But its a good lesson to learn from and the pain was worth enduring for the pictures.

  • Get to desired shooting locations before the crowd.

    • If you know you want to capture a specific event such as sunrise then you should be aware that you aren't the only one who has that in mind. Get to the location before the crowd does because the last thing you want is a bunch of tourists with selfie sticks in your frame. 

    • Arrive an hour beforehand if possible, this will allow for time to find parking and will allow you time to find the right spot. This will also hopefully help you avoid those big bus loads of tourists. As I left Moraine Lake after getting my sunrise shots there were at least 6 buses that were going in while I was going out (that would have been at least 200 people to deal with).

  • Include buffer time.

    • Related to the previous point, allow yourself some buffer time to get to locations because there is considerable traffic at certain times of day approaching places of interest such as Moraine lake. Parking can also be a hassle because of the sheer amount of people who want to visit the location so take into account that it might take some time to get a parking spot.

  • Bring extra batteries & memory cards.

    • The last thing you want is for your battery to die or realise you don’t have anymore space on your card while a magical moment unveils (eg. sunrise/sunset). Batteries die faster in the cold so bring a couple of spares. Since you are probably going to be shooting in RAW file format (recommended if you are doing any post-processing), you will be filling up those memory cards fast so definitely bring extras and keep them in a proper case to keep them protected.

  • If you have polarising & ND filters bring them.

    • This will help bring back some of those blown out highlights in the sky while exposing for the landscape/foreground. (i.e. these filters can help you get a more evenly lit shot)

  • Take all the shots but be intentional and don’t delete anything.

    • I don’t know why but especially when I was first starting out as a photographer I just didn’t take certain shots because in my mind they weren’t going to be perfect or were just inconvenient.

    • But think about it. you’ve travelled all this way and that one shot you didn’t take could have been "the one". Whats there to lose? Just take everything you have in mind and don't give in to self doubt and irrational fears. It's better than going home and hating yourself for not shooting it from up there or from down low or across there.  

  • Take a couple shots where everyone is then move.

    • Shoot where all the other tourists and instagram folks are shooting from but move on after that to find the shot that will make your image unique. 

    • I like to to spend 10% of my time on locations taking the "popular shot" or "postcard shot" and 90% finding "my shot". Find a way to make your images different or stand out by shooting from a different angle or by including different elements.

  • Don’t shoot for the first 5 minutes.

    • As photographers we always want to get right into it. We tend to get excited when we come across amazing scenes and dive right into it.  The problem I find is two fold:

      • 1) we tend to settle on the first composition which we think is “the one” and negate ourselves from exploring other (potentially better) angles & compositions. I always tell my students to take 5 steps to the left and right, go high, go low. In essence what I’m saying is to explore the environment because it is foreign to you, understand it and look for nuances that make it unique and give it time to speak to you.

      • 2) Once we start shooting that scene we don’t stop and before you know it the moment is lost and the only memory of it will be looking through a viewfinder. Take 5 minutes to soak it in, the visuals, scents, air, vibes,  the way it makes you feel. Take time to be in the moment because you travelled all the way there.

  • Lastly, don't forget to take a self portrait 

    • Don't forget to take a self portrait on location to remember the moment and place yourself within the environment. 

    • I'm guilty of this and as such I don't have shots of myself on location the way I see the scene. Too often I live behind the lens and I'm sure many fellow photographer do too, but it's a nice change to make yourself the subject and places yourself in perspective of the body of work you are creating.

My turn to be in-front of my lens!

That concludes my blogpost on a super spontaneous trip to Banff and I hope you liked it!

More photos of this adventure can be found on my instagram account @ricardogtaphy so don't forget to check that out! 📸

I hope this has inspired you to get out, explore and take some awesome shots! And as always, don't forget to leave a like below if you enjoyed this and share this post with family and friends!!

Thank you! 

Photographing Arizona by Ricardo Seah

An Arizona Adventure to Antelope Canyon, the Grand Canyon & Horseshoe Bend!

An Arizona Adventure

The past weekend has been a crazy adventure. I photographed two locations that were on my "must photograph places list" and I thought I wouldn't survive what nature had to throw at me but thankfully I'm alive and have pictures to help tell the story. Here's a summary of my Arizona Adventure! 

Arizona Adventure Checklist :  

Photographed two amazing locations that were on my list

I've had two major sites I have always wanted to photograph in the American Southwest: Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Two spectacular sites that I managed to check off my list during this trip. 

After finally visiting and photographing these I can highly recommend these two sites which are located in Page, Arizona. I'll elaborate on each site further down but here are a couple of pics ⤵️

Horseshoe bend is a must see if you are in Page, Arizona! It's absolutely free and just a short hike from the carpark. Just be prepared for the crazy amount of other tourists and have enough water because it can get pretty hot. 

Antelope Canyon is just mesmerising. I don't think words can truly describe this place. It's a definite must see and though you have to spend some money to be with a native guide because it's on Navajo land, it is truly worth the experience.

Antelope Canyon is just mesmerising. I don't think words can truly describe this place. It's a definite must see and though you have to spend some money to be with a native guide because it's on Navajo land, it is truly worth the experience.

Visited Sedona and photographed a beautiful chapel & the landscape that surrounded it

This was the first stop on the road trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and it was amazing. The views and the way they managed to integrate this chapel into the landscape was just something else.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a must see if you're ever in the area. It is really serene and even if you aren't Catholic I highly recommend visiting it as the view of the landscape surrounding it is pretty amazing. Just be mindful that it is after all a place of worship and should be treated with respect. And although there is parking (mostly at the food of the hill) you will have to walk up a little bit to get to the top for the views and chapel entrance (which is totally worth it).

My photo-tips for shooting daytime landscapes: 

  • Use an aperture of at least F9 to get that depth of field (you can obviously go higher if you want to)

  • Use a low ISO like 100-400 to keep the noise (pixelated/grainy look) to the minimum. 

Photographed sunrise and sunset at the Grand Canyon

Ok honestly the conditions weren't the best and it wasn't as clear as I liked it to be but it was amazing nonetheless and we made the most of it. These were all shot from the south rim of the grand canyon though I hear there are some incredible shots to be taken from the north rim as well (we just didn't have the time). 

Incase you get have the right conditions, here are my tips for sunrise/sunset landscape photography:

  • Do your research! 

    • Find out where the best location to shoot from and what time sunrise and sunset is. 

  • Use a tripod, a gorillapod or a flat surface to secure your camera. 

  • Use a low ISO to minimise noise.

  • Use a higher aperture to get more depth of field.

  • Use a graduated ND Filter to balance the exposure of the sky and the foreground

    • Alternatively you can use Lightroom to apply this graduated filter 

    • Or you could take a bracketed exposure and merge the images together in Lightroom to get a HDR image.

  • Be there before sunrise/sunset to scout for the perfect location and get set up for the shot.

I also got to see some deers close up and they seemed pretty unfazed by the people around and just went about doing their thing. 

Here are my tips for photographing wildlife:

  • Don't photograph dangerous animals close up (I wouldn't walk up to a bear to take pics of it and neither should you)

  • Don't make any loud noises that might startle the animal and approach with caution

  • Use a lower aperture so as to achieve a faster shutter speed

  • Use a continuous burst mode/drive mode to capture as many sharp shots as possible 

  • If you're finding it hard to hold your camera steady then increase the ISO till the shutter speed is fast enough for you to shoot without shake in the image appearing.

  • Use a monopod if possible for stability and to avoid camera shake

Camped in the middle of a storm with wildlife right outside praying my tent would hold up

I will never forget this night! After photographing the Grand Canyon, my friends (Nathalie & Daehan) dropped me off at a AirBnB campsite in the middle of nowhere thirty minutes away from the Grand Canyon in an area called Wiliams, Arizona. And yes I thought the same thing... I was like, wait a second, people actually rent out their land on AirBnB (that seemed pretty sketchy and secondly why bother). 

Anyways I really wanted to do some astrophotography though as it turned out it had rained just before I arrived to set up my tent and a storm would hit an hour after setting up camp. Back to the story. So this "campsite"/piece of land was located off the highway and required driving off-road through a first path to get to. 

Problem 1: The car got stuck in mud on the dirt road on the way to the campsite. 

thankfully there was another person driving down the dirt road who helped us push the car out of the mud and allowed us proceed to locate the campsite.

Problem 2: Uhh I didn't really know where the campsite was exactly.

There wasn't clear indication of where the campsite was and GPS was like oh oh you're right here. So I found an opening with flat ground and decided that was the campsite. Nathalie and Daehan helped me set up my tent and then left for their proper AirBnB home an hour away.

I then got comfy, set up the interior of my tent and started taking some photographs only to realise that the conditions for astrophotography weren't right because it was too cloudy. So i did the next best thing, I took a time-lapse to make the most of the clouds in the sky. 

Problem 3: About half an hour into shooting my time-lapse I realised that I had left my bottle/water supply in the car and forgotten to take it out when I was dropped off. 

Problem 4: An hour into the time-lapse I got a notification of an approaching storm so I stopped the time-lapse and hunkered down inside the tent.

It was not good.. it was pouring heavily and the wind was just insane. It rattled the tent and I was just praying my tent would hold up as I had my hands against the side that was blowing inwards for a sense of security. 

And just when I thought things could get any worse.. I heard a bunch of animals (not sure what they were but my first thought was cows) approaching my tent. I was so freaked out because they were like literally right outside my tent and breathing heavily and making noises which didn't sound very happy. Can you please tell me what you think the animals were from this audio clip: 

My older sis messaged me saying it was a bear while my younger sis just laughed.. Anyways back to the story. My first instinct was to just remain as still as possible and not panic (hard to do when all that separates you from the wildlife is tent fabric that you are unsure will hold up in the storm). 

Lots of people have asked me if I saw what it was and the answer is NO! I wasn't about to open my tent in the middle of a storm just to greet the animals outside that could potentially charge in an wreck my tent and my gear and I guess hurt me. 

I tried to sleep it off but kept being awakened by the noises the animals were making and the rattling of the tent from the storm. It was truly an experience I won't forget. Anyways about 2 hours into the ordeal I managed to fall asleep only to be awaked by Nathalie and Daehan who had come to pick me up to catch the sunrise from the Grand Canyon.

It was the best way to spend my first night of the Arizona Adventure, feeling the force of mother nature and being close to the wilderness and wildlife. 

Take-aways from my night in the dessert:

  • Don't book sketchy, middle of nowhere campsites on AirBnB

  • Don't assume that because it's a desert it will never rain

    • The one time it does rain could be when you are there and least expect
  • Be confident with your gear (I should have tested my tent before coming or at lest tried setting it up before the trip)

    • I guess after this ordeal I can recommend the Coleman Tent I bought because it held up in the storm
  • Always have extra water in the bag  

  • Have protection (not that!) I mean like a knife and a bright torchlight with a strike bezel just incase/as a last resort. (I had those and thankfully didn't have to use them)

  • Try to have a buddy with you if possible

Photographed amazing landscapes from the edge of cliffs without falling

Oh boy was my heart pounding whenever I was close to the edge. Like palms sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy... Well not that bad but suffice to say it got my heart rate up every time.

Don't worry Ive done this countless times but always with caution and safety in mind. Here are some of my tips when it comes to taking shots in such situations: 

  • Don't do it if you aren't confident/don't have good balance/don't have proper footwear.

  • Don't do it if you have vertigo. 

    • Vertigo: a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; giddiness. 

  • Have shoes with a good grip (definitely no heels👠, crocs🐊 or old shoes). Preferably hiking or approach shoes (rock-climbers will understand).

  • Look for something in the environment to grip onto like a cactus 🌵or a tree🌲 (preferably a tree though because I've been told grabbing onto a cactus isn't comfortable) for an added sense of security just incase.

  • Ideally have a harness and rope so you can tether yourself to three secure anchor points (but lets be real you ain't going out of your way to buy climbing gear for the shot). 

    • The next best thing to do is have a friend who is in a secure position or holding onto something secure to hold onto you. 

  • Don't look at your screen for too long, take some time intermittently to look at the horizon so as to maintain a sense of balance and not go into vertigo.

To be very honest, I felt more worried for all the tourists/unexperienced folks that were crowding the edge doing ridiculous things like leaning over to get a shot, sticking their cameras/phones over the edge without a strap and posing for photos standing on one leg.. like come on guys, really?!?! 

Just always remember: Safety should be your number one priority!

Witnessed a guy drop his girlfriend's phone off the edge of Hoseshoe bend 

There were like a bunch of tourists at Horseshoe Bend and so so many people were at the edge trying to get a shot with the bend behind them (including many with selfie sticks). So there was this couple trying to get a selfie next to me and as the guy was trying to take the selfie with his girlfriend's phone attached, it slipped out and fell into the abyss #byebyephone. There was a short "OHH" from the crowd followed by complete silence as he looked at her with nothing to say... Not sure how the rest of the trip went for him but that sure wasn't the best way to impress a girl with one's selfie skills. Oh well I guess theres the iPhone X he can get to make it up to her.

And though I didn't witness other people dropping stuff I definitely saw some belongings on the bottom of the cliff such as this (can you spot it?) 

Did you spot that pink bag??? 

That's right.. someone dropped their bag!!! Like people please keep your sh*t together! 

Pro Tip: Don't use your cheap selfie sticks that don't have a really secure grip/connection when taking selfies on the edge of a cliff. If you really just wanted a couple shot all you have to do is ask someone to take it (no shame in that). If you absolutely have to use your selfie stick then try not to take pics in portrait mode. That just places stress on the grip mechanism and increases your chances of buying the new iPhone. Also, if you absolutely need to carry your sling/handbag with you to the edge, make sure it is secured around your shoulders. 

Thought I wouldn't be able to shoot antelope canyon due to a heavy down pour & flash floods 

I almost broke down on the drive from the Grand Canyon (where we caught sunrise) to Page (where Antelope Canyon is located) because it was raining and I knew they would cancel the Antelope canyon tours due to flash flooding caused by the rain. 

True enough, by the time we got to Page it was still raining and we called the Lower Antelope canyon tour company only to be informed that there wasn't going to be any tours for the Lower Antelope Canyon that day. 😢 All hope seemed lost so we decided to just get Starbucks coffee at a supermarket nearby.

I kid you not.. 3minutes after stepping into the supermarket it blacked out/lost power I guess due to the downpour (the first time I've been in a supermarket without power). So we waited in a dark supermarket for about half an hour before deciding to just leave and cross the street for some "Thai Food". You guessed right. It was far from what I know Thai food to be and Nathalie who is Thai agrees. 

We started making calls for the tours we had booked later in the afternoon for Upper Antelope Canyon just to check if they would still carry on the tours if the weather got better. But I wasn't able to get through to the company I booked with because too many people were calling them. So after lunch we headed to Horseshoe Bend and a glimmer of hope broke through the clouds. The weather began to clear up and the sun was up again!! Woohoo!!

After some time at Horseshoe bend, we promptly made our way to our separate Upper Antelope Canyon Tour companies hoping that the tour would be a go thanks to the change in weather. And it was such a relief to know that the Upper antelope Canyon Tours were operating! Our luck had turned and they dropped me off at my Tour company site "Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours" before heading to a separate Antelope Canyon tour they had booked with another company. 

There were so so many people on tours in the canyon! If I wasn't on the special photography tour I was on I would have been able to get the shots I got. Btw thats my guide in orange and helped make sure no one got in my way.

I booked the photography tour package with "Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours" and was the only person allowed to bring my tripod into the canyons and was allowed time to capture the shots I wanted with the help f my guide who also helped me control traffic. Other sightseeing tourists didn't have much time to take pictures in the crowded canyons as their guides ushered them along promptly (you have to be with a guide at all times). There were at least 150 people in the canyon which wasn't the best for photography but thankfully my guide was awesome and helped me ensure no one stepped into my shots. 

It was a truly amazing experience and I highly highly recommend visiting Upper Antelope Canyon with the Adventurous Tour Group. My dreams came true and I photographed this unique and spectacular canyon that had been shaped by mother nature over hundreds of years. 

Spent a day in Phoenix at a Hole in the rock thinking I was going to die from heat exhaustion

After Antelope Canyon we drove back to Phoenix Arizona where we spilt off because Daehan and Nathalie were leaving the next day while I stayed a day longer. I spent that extra day in Phoenix at a place/rock feature called "Hole in the Rock" in Papago Park. It was literally a hole in a rock with good views of the landscape.

What I wasn't prepared for was the intense heat! It was a blazing 42 degrees celcius ☀️🔥🔥🔥

I thought singapore was hot but oh boy this place was something else. I could feel the heat through my hiking boots and the sun just slapping me.  I ended up finishing the two bottles water I had with me before the sun had set and I can tell I was starting to get dehydrated. 

Nonetheless I got some nice shots from the hole in the rock where I stayed to catch the sunset. Unfortunately I didn't take many sunset shots as the place gossiper crowded with people catching the sunset. 


That about sums up my Arizona Adventure! 

It was a heck of an experience visiting amazing places and photographing spectacular scenes as well as being put in situations I didn't expect. I'd like to thank the following for making this adventure possible:

  • Shout out to Daehan and Nathalie for inviting me on this trip and letting me be DJ.
  • Nathalie's cousin Caroline for letting us use her car
  • Adventurous Antelope Tour group for the great tour, service and guide
  • Coleman for making a tent that stood up to the storm 
  • Mother nature for the surprises, wonders and views
  • And of course, my main man JC (Jesus Christ) for always looking out for me 

And Thank You!

You are the reason I create and share content like this! I hope you enjoyed reading this rather long blogpost and that it inspires you to get out and go shoot!

If you liked this, please give it a thumbs up and share it with family & friends #sharethelove. Also don't forget to comment on what you think that animal outside my tent was, I'm still really curious and want to find out.

Till next time! Stay tuned on my instagram for more shots and keep shooting 📸😊🙌🏼

Take care!