Day 25 – Rome, Fiat 500 Adventures, and the Holy Catholic Vatican
We left Doha, Qatar after too-short of a trip and flew about six hours to Rome after I finally got my quadcopter out of being stuck in customs! I wasn’t allowed to fly it anywhere in Qatar or Oman, so they kept it at the airport for me. There’s always a confusing process to get it un-stuck! But everything turned out okay…
In Rome, we stayed right in the middle of the city at the Boscolo Exedra. It was another great hotel and a fun home base for the whole family. We did a ton of stuff here in the city. We got started with a full tour of Vatican City, which was even more impressive than I anticipated. Mind-blowing really! I’ve been to Rome four times but never visited the Vatican until this time. We had a private tour guide and it was definitely the way to go… Maria knew everything about this place and it was much more interesting than just blindly stumbling around.
And then we ended up in a 1962 and 1967 Fiat 500s to tour the Roman countryside. What a great way to explore… just about 10 km away was a beautiful lake… and, well you can see more in the video!
A Roman villa stands on a hill with the rest of teaming Rome behind it.
A Straight-up view from another area inside The Vatican.
Driving into the Roman countryside.
Exploring another room in The Vatican.
Exploring the massive halls inside and outside of Vatican City.
Having a quick flight over Rome with the DJI Phantom 3.
Her skirt was a little too skimpy to be let into The Vatican, so they stopped outside for some selfie action.
Scarlett got a new coat in Rome and she never takes it off.
Stopping with our Fiat 500s at a Roman aqueduct.
The amazing golden dome of the Basilica of Saint Peter.
The Basilica of Saint Peter is the longest church in the world and you can see the lengths of other churches represented on the floor.
The girls in front of the Coloseum.
The massive interior of the Basilica.
There are thousands of fountains all over Rome where the water is perfectly drinkable – one secret thing many have is if you plug the bottom, the water spurts out a little hole on top .
We took two Fiat 500’s out to explore the Roman countryside.
With one foot in both countries of Italy and Vatican City.
This is a great winery and place to have lunch here on the South Island! One day when I was there, I flew the quad around a bit… Here’s the result!
Daily Photo – Hobbiton in Evening Light
Jumping from the beautiful South Island to the North Island of New Zealand, we come back to the quaint and too-perfect Hobbiton. I was lucky enough to be there right after they installed all the lights. What could be better than this? Something so scenic and relaxing… and it's all real too. I mean, there are no Hobbits or anything… but all the plants, gardens, working mead tap in the Green Dragon Inn – everything! I want to sleep here all night I think.
Check it out, Aurora HDR Pro 1.2 has been released with a whole lotta improvements and some sparking new features!
Here’s one of my favourite recent photos from my family trip that was done in Aurora HDR Pro! Look at all that glow action!
1.Photos for Mac editing extensions support
2.Leica M Monochrome (type 246) RAW file support
3.Open/Save for .HDR and .EXR image formats
1.Better RAW file handling for Panasonic, Olympus and Fuji images
2.Updates to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop plug-ins
3.Enhanced masking brush
4.Improved clipping results for overall HDR effect
5.Improved chromatic aberration reduction
6.Better UI support for 11″ and 13″ displays
7.Improved performance and various bug fixes
Well, this day started out great
You’ll read more about it below, but about 30 minutes after this I was in a car crash! My taxi hit another car in downtown Rabat that had run a red light. We t-boned it and I had on no seat belt! Half of me ended up in the front seat with a super-bruised right knee! Everyone jumped out of their cars and it was like a crazy Moroccan street fight. I was thinking I GOTTA GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE! So I jumped out very clumsily, pulled my suitcase from the trunk and limped away for about half a km till I was way out of that area… jumped in another cab, then hit the train station to exit stage left!
Daily Photo – Standing Guard at the Tomb
I was only briefly in Casablanca before moving on here to Rabat, Morocco. The first place I visited here was the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. I arrived way too early and it was closed. So I kind of loitered around… it was my first real day in Morocco so I was just wandering like a babe in the woods… it was so awesome. I made friends with the other guards that were waiting to get in, then I was able to be first and get a few choice shots while everyone set up for the day of guarding the tomb!
I recently wrote an article for a photography magazine with 6 tips. I thought I’d repeat them here! You’ll see I make a few references to Aurora HDR Pro — so grab that if you don’t already have it!
1) Get your camera into Auto-bracketing mode. I take just 3 exposures most of the time at -2, 0, and +2. I also shoot in RAW mode so you’ve got a little more juice in the light to play with later in post.
2) Collect Auto-bracketed shots everywhere, even if you don’t think it’s an HDR situation. If your camera has Auto-bracketing, go ahead and keep it on most of the time. When you drag a series of photos into Aurora HDR Pro (or most HDR programs), you’ll be surprised at some of the textures and colors that come out of the woodwork.
3) If you’re shooting in the bright sun, go ahead and set your Exposure Compensation to -1. That means your three exposures will be at -3, -1, and +1. I find that the +2 on a bright day is just TOO bright and has no positive effect on the final creation.
4) Also, if you’re shooting in the middle of the day, don’t bother with a tripod. Just go handheld. All these programs nowadays are so good at auto-aligning that you don’t have to worry about it. Just save the tripod for sunset and night shots!
5) If you find that processing the photos is going a bit slow on your computer, just use JPGs (or export to JPGs) before bringing the shots into Aurora HDR Pro or any other program. Honestly, I can’t see a big difference in bringing in the RAW files at all. And I really pay attention to these things!
6) When processing, be sure to use layers to make different parts of your photo look unique. For example, you may not want the “whole thing HDR’ed” — maybe you just want the buildings to be highly textured with an HDR look, but not so much for the trees or skies. A common mistake most people make is they try to give the entire photo the same look… I think it’s great to make some parts smooth, some parts glowy, some parts texturey, other parts saturated… Each photo will come out very unique, much like you… think of yourself like a chef, organically creating a reflection of you and the scene at the time.
Daily Photo – The Burj Khalifa at Night
There's no way to take a bad photo of this thing! Actually, I did notice a bunch of people with mobile phones having a heck of a time trying to fit the whole thing into frame. They would be taking photos of their friends and in almost every case, they had to lay on the 100 degree concrete and aim up to get the whole thing in… it was actually funny, walking around and watching everyone laying on the ground with their phones!
Qatar was a tough place for us, with the Ratcliff Family hitting an all-time low. I was pretty sick, and actually still am while editing this together on the 6-hour flight to Rome. Ethan was quite sick and spent over 24 hours in bed eating soup and smelling like old soup. He’s a bit better now, so that is good… my cough and runny nose lingers like the memory of mounting a camel. That sounds bad…
We started out with a morning desert safari that included some awkward moments on both camels and trucks. The dunes here were, even more, extreme than Oman, so the girls were, at least, ready for it. You can see more in the video for sure. Tina sure was screaming when she got on that camel… all of them were. Ethan had quite a grumpy camel, which did nothing to help his mood.
And then we had an incredible cooking class from an amazing chef at our hotel at The Ritz-Carlton Sharq Village named Evangelos Liakouris. He was like a Greek Vic Gundotra that can cook. It was over two hours long and the girls went nuts, especially with the “Deconstructed Black Forest Cake.” From there, we went to another epic dinner at the other Ritz-Carlton in Doha at an Italian restaurant called Porcini where the kids got to make some pizzas. Once again, another day of non-stop eating!
The city of Doha glistens in wild colors at night. Most of the buildings cycle through various LED color states.
It’s a huge city and Tina was surprised at the size of a city she had never heard of before a few months ago.
Here’s an incredible restaurant we found in the souq called Parisa.
The last call to prayer for the evening at a mosque.
Photogenic camels in the desert.
Here’s one of the three pools from the Sharq Village that had no sharks, thank goodness.
A gentleman at the camp were we got the camels.
The family gets their first feel for how strange it is to get on a camel for a ride.
I join them, but have great trouble holding both the Osmo and the camel.
This is a place the falcons, the National Bird of Qatar, would come and perch.
A beautiful amphiteatre at night.
Two ladies go in a different entrance on the left.
After the dune bashing it was time for dune-sliding!.
I hope this captures the massive size of the dunes that we slid down then climbed up.
Here we are on the border of Saudi Arabia, which was about half a kilometer away at one point.
Scarlett walks through a portal to explore the sea on the other side.
The family with another camel friend.
Isabella loves all animals, and she came to visit Jamilla here at the Sharq Village about seven times!.
A pair of Muslim women walk home for the evening across the entrance to The Pearl.
The beginning of an amazing 2-hour cooking class.
Daily Photo – Artificial Islands keep growing out into the sea as Doha expands to every horizon.
Now available for download in the store… and I think you’ll really love it.
In case you didn’t already know, I’ve got a new eBook! It’s called “Light Falls Like Bits”. I’ve been working with Goff books for two years to create it, and I’m super excited for you guys to read it!
I’ve thrown a curve ball out there in the E-book world, in which the articles about me… aren’t actually written by me. Some of these essays are by Maura Reilly, Michelle Bogre, and Erik Davis. There’s also an interview by Jordan Crandall in there that you will enjoy.
AND it’s filled with a whole lot of my photos (over 100!), all the captions for those photos I did personally write, which was a lot of fun getting going back and re-living all of those amazing moments / bizarre situations that went into capturing the images. I’ve also recorded a whole lot of audio captions that you can listen to if you get the iOS version, which people seem to be enjoying.
Photo Tip – Shooting from Planes or the Air in the Daytime
My technique for shooting from the air is pretty simple. It actually took me a while to arrive at this formula, but it always seems to work. I go into Manual mode and then force my shutter speed to be extra-fast… maybe 1/1000th of a second. This ensures there is absolutely no blur. And then I let my ISO float and auto-adjust… I’ll often get my F-Stop as low as possible too so all the dirt and smudges on the window disappear. It works like 98% of the time! And, well, like the title says, this method only works in the daytime… night is a different beast.
Daily Photo – Flying home between Wanaka and Queenstown
The flight into Queenstown is maybe one of the most beautiful flights in the world. This is the Crown Range here, and you can't quite see it, but there is a road there that connects Wanaka and Queenstown. It's actually the highest road in New Zealand! It gets A LITTLE icy sometimes in the winter, and they often close it down… but when it's open, the view there is as pretty as the view from this plane window!
I got a nice invite to visit an incredible looking Lodge in Oamaru called Pen-y-bryn — It turns out the owner is a fan and really into photography! Sounds like its a must-visit!
Daily Photo – Pretty Colors in Queenstown Park
I have joked before about starting a second blog where I just put up the “other” photos that I never publish. I honestly actually produce over 2,000 photos a year that are, at least I think, somewhat interesting. They're not all winners by any means, but sometimes there's a little bit of awesomeness in there! Anyway, since I only publish 365 a year here on the blog in the daily post, that means I have thousands of rejects! This is one of those “rejects” that I still kinda like. I don't know what to do with all the others… maybe I'll make a Tumblr or something that is called “Trey's Rejected Photos!”
Day 18 – Adventuring in the deserts and seas of Oman.
Wow, Oman is a secret treasure in the world!
Everyone was warm, kind, and inviting. The landscapes are like nothing I’ve ever seen, from curious canyons to sharp-ridged mountains, to huge epic mountain ranges, and everything in between. Parts are green and other parts are 150km of nonstop desert where it takes 6 days by camel to cross.
We did a ton of stuff just in our short time here… enjoy the video!
A beautiful sunset.
A beautiful sunset along the beach in Muscat.
About to board two catamarans for a sunset sail.
Hardcore Souk Shopping.
Beautiful colors in the mosque.
Inside the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Al Bustan Palace.
Ladies walking on the beach.
My friend in the desert.
My new friends exchange Instagram information at the mosque.
The family visits the Grand Mosque.
Scarlett is constantly throwing sand for no reason I can discern.
Here’s the chandelier in the Grand Mosque from below.
The Girls Take a Rest after a long walk in the desert.
The end of the Mosque where the colors glowed.
The Grand Mosque around midnight.
Visiting the Bedouin home.
The girls walk through the massive desert — if you look in the middle, you can see a group of people about 5km away.
Daily Photo – The incredible interior of the Grand Mosque