Our first news is that we have been away on a girls trip. Its has been school holidays here, and we decided that even if our husbands couldn't get away, there was nothing to stop us going on a trip. We decided the Yasawas, further north and west of here would be the destination, and Lisa phoned around. Luckily she's a great organiser, and she sorted for us (6 of us, four with our children) to take over the dorm and a bure at The Oarsman's Bay Lodge. But first we had to get there.
The most accepted way to travel to the Yasawas, unless you have the wherewithal to fly everywhere by float plane or helicopter is South Sea Island Cruises/Awesome Adventures Yasawa Flyer. The rest of our group boarded at Denarau, but we hopped on an hour later at Beachcomber. This meant that we only four hours to go to our destination. Four hours travelling with 9 young children (5 for the Denarau girls)? Yes we were right to be concerned... We were heading for Nacula Island- right at the top as you can see on this map (which I have borrowed from here)
Well our concerns came to nothing, as we had a brilliant trip, as fun an experience as the destination itself, which led one of the ladies to muse (possibly over a beer) that "the journey is as important as the destination"! Usually we see the large yellow Yasawa flyer going past where we live, but for this trip the Tiger IV, a near similar boat, was doing the run up to the Yasawa's. We hopped on and settled in with the rest of our mob, who had a great posi down in the airconditioned cabin. Handy access to space for the kids, games and the food bar which provided us yummy noodles, sandwiches, cake and of course the necessities: coffee (and coming home:beer). The kids played played, babies slept, backpackers hung out (and some people sat in the airconditioned exclusivity of the Captains Lounge...). Raef and Michelle- thank you so much for the game of Blokus! It's awesome!
Fiji sometimes has a reputation of being er... less than efficient. But not this boat. I meant to snap some photos of the wonderful personalities crewing the Tiger IV. But on this run it is busy and they are super efficient. As you approach each island stop you id your bag then wait back out of the way. Then lots and lots of little boats approach from the little resorts and villages all around the place. Its amazing! The guys who deal with the boats and baggage and passengers are nothing short of machines, as are the staff inside processing tickets (so many different types and passes) and destinations. In the Yasawas there are lots and lots of smaller relaxed backpacker style resorts, and a few really posh ones. So its common to tour around from small resort to small resort, infact there's even a pass to do that- the "Bula Pass". Here's one resorts transfer boat- ours wasn't that packed...and then Shiv waving bye to Regis as he hops off at Botaira, and the Wanna Taki, another accomodation option up there...
and here are the transfer boats at the stop closer to Nacula... Incidently Fiji is a small place. As we hopped back on the boat to go home (4 hours travel away) we bumped in Jonathan and family (about 8 hours travel from home, assuming they didn't fly)... small world...
While I haven't got any other photos of the staff that day (as I said, very busy and efficient) I did collar Akosita who was working on board that day on an earlier occasion to help me photograph an end of couch pose I was supposed to do for a course which I won't recommend to you. Because it wasn't all that good, though of course it wasn't all bad either...
Instead one course I will recommend is Brenda Tharp's "Creating Visual Impact" on Better Photo. This is a really really great course and I recommend it to anyone wanting to take better photos (as the name of the site implies)... Though you will need to be able to shoot in manual and have a bit of an idea first of course. One of the many excellent points she made was that the eye can see and analyse 11 stops of light (that's my wording ,not hers). And the camera obviously can't! The dark bits we can see get too dark, the light bits get too bright. That's where the first photo in todays post comes in- the other journey I have been making with some online friends (ina private forum) who are amazing photographers is exploring methods of "high dynamic range" where basically you take multiple exposures of the same picture and combine to try and keep detail in both the light bits and the dark bits. We found a whole lot of references, which I won't bore you with here, and started working on various photos... Of course I was too stingy to buy photomatix, despite the discount code which is part of this very interesting post on Flying Panther. Another post on "Backing Winds"
(he's a storm chaser! how cool is that!) assured me I could do some HDR in PSCS3, so I set about trying to learn that. I wasn't really succesful...
then one of the comments in his blog, amongst the argument for and against highly saturated photomatix images, had yet another method:-
" Unfortunately for me, most of my objects move during my long exposures, so the automatic HDR conversion doesn't work. I usually resort to the older stacking method (works in 8 or 16 bit):
1. brightest exposure goes to the bottom, darkest on top
2. copy the rgb brightness (luma) from the layer below and use it as the current layer mask
3. blur it slightly (to taste)
4. repeat with all remaining layers (all but the lowest layer have masks now)
5. manually fix the masks for objects that were moving or don't need HDR treatment
6. put an adjustment layer on top of the stack (levels or curves, as you like) to get the contrast back
7. adjust layer opacities to taste"
and apparently the result is a nice rich 16 bit image with no artifacts.
Sound tricky? yes I thought so too, but that didn't stop me giving it a go. So after lots of playing and experimenting the general vote was that Erica's HDR images using photomatix were the most exciting (and possibly easier to do too), despite the naysayers who write photomatix images off as too saturated etc. But the journey of working through all the different methods and experimenting sure did teach us a lot about photoshop and our images! So like the boat trip the journey was easily as important as the destination...
Here's one last image which has had a bit of help from photomatix, and a few of the other methods tried on it too... This is as we cross by the Blue Lagoon (yes the real one) to head around to the other side of Nacula from the big boat to our destination... Lisa has asked me to come up with 12 good photos from our visit to Oarsmans. But so far I have only narrowed it down to 140... No doubt I will post some soon, but don't hold your breath... till then, bye (sota tale)!