Hey everybody, guess what? …I’M BACK IN OZ!
And here’s some even better news; in a few days I’ll be getting personally welcomed back in a live interview by none other than the amazing landscape photographers Jay and Varina Patel. How lucky am I!
Jay and Varina are world leaders in their genre, have their own documentary Through The Canadian Wilderness, and have created a fantastic community over at Visual Wilderness. And if you haven’t seen what they can do with a camera, I suggest checking it out. Jay’s Gallery and Varina’s Gallery.
So here’s your chance to get to know me even more. Come and join us in a live Visual Wilderness episode below, or by visiting the event page.
I’ll be talking about my recent adventure where my wife and I quit our jobs back in December 2012, packed our backpack, and left Australia to head west around the globe, for over 15 months. In the interview, I’ll be discussing some of the images below, and the stories behind each. So tune in Wednesday evening (or late Thursday morning for us Aussies).
Late April, halfway through a 21 day trek, deep and alone in the Gokyo Valley & Everest region of the Himalayas. Just having crossed the Cho La Pass at 5,420m, famous for its near vertical two hour long climb over snow and ice, we found ourselves trekking down a spectacular glacier with towering snow capped peaks surrounding us in every direction. The scenery was just mind blowing, and within moments of us standing there in awe, the decision had been made. No where else would ever compare. This was the place for us to Elope!! We climbed around to an exposed cliff ledge protruding out from the glacier and overlooking the magical scenery, said our personal vows and slipped on our wedding rings.
After the 9 hour day of trekking (actually more like mountain climbing), we finally settled in for the night, wedged in between some of the highest and most beautiful mountains on the planet. We relaxed that evening with an incredible sense of accomplishment, tackling such a testing pass with only our backpacks, and a paper map to guide us. As we watched the sunset on the evening of our wedding, we were rewarded with this spectacular display of colour bursting through the distant valley peeks. An absolute treat to round off our first night as Mr & Mrs Burkinshaw!
Stalking the camera man, me!
Deep in the Serengeti on a Safari through Tanzania, we came across a lioness stalking a gazelle. To our surprise, the lioness took the opportunity to use our 4WD to sneak up closer to the gazelle. Upon getting closer to our car, with myself hanging completely out of the window snapping away, she stopped just metres away and just stared directly into my eyes. It sent a shudder down my spine. Straight after this shot, it’s safe to say that I jumped back in the car quicker than I’ve ever done before. What a surreal experience!
Tat Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang, Laos
This stunning jewel of northern Laos consists of several dozen beautiful turquoise lagoons, and countless small waterfalls. You can spend hours searching through the foliage finding many hidden lagoons.
I took this photograph by getting down low with an ultra wide angle lens, and used a slow shutter speed to give the falling water a nice dreamy effect.
Erta Ale in the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
4 days in a 4WD, travelling around what National Geographic dubs “The cruelest place on earth”! The Danakil Depression is the hottest place on the planet, but boasts one of the worlds few persistent lava lakes (we spent the night there), and a series of Volcanic landscapes that look more like Mars than Earth.
Located on the border of Eritrea, it’s also not exactly the safest place on earth, so for protection we required our own convoy of armed militia.
Unveiling Machu Picchu, Peru
Early morning deep in the mountains of southern Peru sits arguably the most beautiful site on the planet, Machu Picchu. Every morning the ruins start covered in a thick blanket of cloud, but as the sun starts to rise, the mist slowly dissipates revealing the stunning scene underneath. It’s not just the ruins that make this place so magical, it’s also the surrounding landscape.
When I first arrived at the viewpoint, I couldn’t see a thing. The entire site was in a dense fog. But patience is a virtue, and after an hour and a half of waiting, the ruins were finally revealed. It did not disappoint!
This was actually my second time visiting Machu Picchu, and comparing all of my photographs of the ruins bathed in the different kinds of light, I much prefer the this latest moody shot as I feel it much more represents the enchanting feeling you have watching the scene unfold.
Just like us. Mountain Gorillas in the Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
I’ve spent the last decade of my life travelling and have experienced quite a lot. But nothing quite compares to what I would honestly call the most amazing experience of my life. Spending over an hour amongst a family of 6 Mountains Gorillas in south-east Uganda.
I really don’t know where to start… A several hour ride on the most insane 4WD track, brought us to the Bwindi Impenetrable Jungle in Uganda, where we met the trackers and two Guards armed with AK47′s (bordering the Congo, this jungle isn’t the safest place on earth, and there are many wild elephants in the area also). In the morning we set off and spent three and a half hours climbing straight up this mountain, following our tracking guide as he hacked our way through the most insanely dense jungle with machetes (a lot of effort actually), getting severely bitten over by fire ants, which their bits are still continue to burn a day later. Eventually reaching the mountain peak, where we met what we were there for; a family of six Mountain Gorillas, including the Silverback that weighs up to around 250kg’s and stands up to 2 metres tall. His arms were as thick as my torso! Seeming though he was the first we encountered, it was a very daunting initiation into the experience.
But despite how utterly huge and powerful these amazing animals are, and the fact that they could crush you in a second, they truly are the most placid and peaceful creatures on the planet. They have absolutely no intention to hurt you and let you get within a metre or two of them. We spent over an hour with this playful family, following them around the area, just sitting with them, watching them eat and do their stuff. The entire day has now become one of my favourite travel experiences. Though a little more specifically; being within 2 metres of the silver back (no, not joking) and staring straight into his eyes, with him staring straight back at you … I can’t ever describe how that felt!
Monk in Solitude, Laos
It was a treat to stumble across this unexpected cave in northern Laos. I explored further inside the dark passages where I witnessed this monk, as he kneels in solitude while deep in thought, with light shining perfectly over him from a hole in the cave wall above.
Spending over an hour heading down a very bumpy dirt road on an old rusty push bike, I was told there was an amazing lagoon awaiting my arrival at the other end. Much to my disappointment, this lagoon turned out to be a couple of muddy holes in the ground, overcrowded with locals and tourists alike, it definitely was not the reward I was hoping for. With this in mind and determined to make my trip worthwhile, I headed off to climb up the mountain close by, scrambling along aimlessly in attempt to make my own adventure. Eventually, I came across a small opening in the mountain wall a few hundred metres up. Curiously I entered, and found a gigantic cave opening up in front of me. Inside was a little shrine with two Buddhist Monks praying next to it. I crept inside to investigate and observe. The two monks acknowledged me and welcomed me in.
I’d like to stress that this is not a staged portrait. I noticed the beam of light entering from a hole above, and one of the monks kneeling at a similar time. However, it wasn’t quite that simple as clicking that shutter. I had to quickly scramble over many boulders and rocks in very dark conditions without a light to get in the exact right position, and because I didn’t have a tripod, I had to rest my camera on my knee and lean against a rock to keep myself as still as possible. I stabilized as much as possible and then pressed that shutter release. Any cuts and scratches from all the scrambling definitely paid off with this one. It turned out to be one of my favourite photographs from 2013!
The Devil’s Throat, Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Iguazu Falls would have to be one of the most destructive and beautiful sites (at the same time) on the planet. At 2.5 km’s (1.5 miles) long, it’s one of the widest waterfalls in the world. In wet season, over 13 MILLION litres (that’s 13,000,000) of water spill over every single second. This of course is absolutely impossible to imagine, and in this circumstance – seeing is believing! And wow what a site this is. The ‘Devil’s Throat’ at the most northern end of the falls, is just a small section of Iguazu, but by far is the most jaw dropping part of the day.
This particular photograph doesn’t actually encompass the full force of the ‘Devil’s Throat’, but is what leads directly up to it. The epicentre of the carnage is just to the right of this frame.
These series of shots of the Devil’s Throat, would have to be some of the most difficult photographs I’ve had to take. The amount of mist (which was more like heavy rain at times) in the air meant that my camera was saturated within a second of taking it out, no matter what way I was facing. So to pull this shot off, I had to set everything up manually underneath my clothes; including estimating the shutter speed and manually focus (as by the time the auto focus or light metering system kicked in, there was too much water on the lens to take a clear shot). Then quickly whip it out and take the photo without anytime at all to compose. Due to how overcast the day was, I waited quite a while till the sun breached the clouds and lit up that grass for a nice rich green before taking the shot. All in all, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out in such difficult circumstances.
Morning Light in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
A long exposure of temples bathed in first light of the morning as dawn breaks, lit up by a full moon overhead.
In order to take this photograph, I had to get up 2 hours before first light, ride an hour on a half broken bicycle through the heat (yes, even this early – Bagan is HOT), find my temple in the dark that I selected the day before, scramble to the top of the temple, setup my tripod and wait for that glow… All in the pitch black with the aid of only a head torch.
Hindu man on the Ganges, India
In the simmering midday heat, a traditional local Hindu man sits, begging on the steps of Varanasi, next to the worlds most famous river, the Ganges. In all the places I’ve been to, Varanasi would have to be one of the most amazing places for street photography. The scene, the atmosphere, the characters; just amazing!
The Treasury at Petra, Jordan
After half an hour of twisting and turning down a stunning colourful canyon 30 to 40m high, it finally opens up to one of the most amazing ruins in the world; Petra! Truly awe inspiring.
Night sky in Wadi Rum, Jordan
This is a 30 second long exposure of the milky way while camping in the Wadi Rum desert, southern Jordan.
It was a warm night, so we pulled our mattresses out from the tents and climbed up on the rocks to fall asleep with our backs to the ground and eyes up towards the night sky. It also happened to be the night of the Perseid meteor shower, so we got to see at least 100+ shooting stars before falling asleep! An absolutely amazing night!
Sunset Over Fitzroy Mountain, Patagonia
The sun setting over the southern Patagonian Andes, lighting up the clouds nicely over one of the most beautiful mountains this planet has to offer; Fitzroy Mountain, southern Argentina. This photo was taken a few kilometers south of El Chalten, as we were arriving for the first time. A fantastic introduction to the area in which I had to capture.
The climate is very chaotic in this region of Patagonia, and finding good days can be quite difficult as they are very few and far in between. So I guess I can say that we were lucky as we managed to snag a few days like this.
Everlasting Dunes of Huacachina, Peru
Here’s another sand dune shot from outside of Huacachina, in southern peru. This time with the sun just minutes away from setting, creating those nice golden colours.
Shooting here was quite difficult, as sand is definitely a cameras enemy. And with the wind kicking up as evening was rolling in, it was quite hard to protect the camera. But definitely worth a bit of camera maintenance ;-)
Pyramids of Karima, Sudan
This shot was taken smack in the middle of the day, in the extreme intense heat, right in the northern Sudanese desert. These pyramids attract little to no tourists, and if you were to make the long and difficult journey here, you’ll have them all to yourself. This is just one of many pyramid sites Sudan has to offer. There’s actually more pyramids in Sudan than there is outside.
Our Wedding Kiss
Last but certainly not least, one of my favourite photographs of the trip. Yes I know, I’m biased! But this is where my wife and I said our vows and put our rings on each others finger. We had already done the paper work previously, so the actual ceremony was up to us.
Originally having no idea where we were going to elope, we carried our rings with us everywhere we went until that magic location revealed itself. So just over 5,000 meters in altitude, up in the himalayas, right in the middle of a three week trek, that location revealed itself to us. All alone and presented with the most amazing landscape before us, we found a little ledge on the edge of a glacier and got ourselves married :-)