The top 5 islands I would visit again next year for more photography

The top 5 islands I would visit again in 2017 for more photography

It’s that time of the year when I usually go back and check my trips.

I am based in Melbourne and this makes my flights very very long. I have been living here for 15 years and a 12 hours flight now sounds like a short one.

There are so many islands in the world that would be impossible to visit every single one.

I am not that inclined to visit a place, an island or a village, twice. Cities are a bit different, they have not only sites to see but also events to experience, this could be a concert, a play or a musical.

When I think back to some of the islands I visited my brain starts dreaming and my hands start googling flights and accommodations.

These are the islands I would definitely visit two, three and possibly many more times. My selection is mostly based on opportunities for photography, great food, awesome landscape and local people.

Table of Contents

Koh Chang – Thailand

Bang Bao, Koh Chang
Bang Bao, Koh Chang

Thailand is one of my favourite countries.

Great food, easy-going people, amazing places and so many subjects for photography.

This country is one of the most touristic ones in the world and this is no wonder.

Finding an island is easy, finding the perfect island is just a bit more complicated.

Koh Chang is not the perfect island by any mean, however, it is definitely a great relaxing place, still not over busy and overbuilt as in few other islands and easy to reach.

Food is mostly based on fresh fish and there are so many sites for a sunset photo. This is a guide to the top 6 in the island.

The formal fishing village of Bing Bao is just a photographic mine, not to be missed.

Worthless saying that all comes at an affordable price.

Penang – Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang
Georgetown, Penang

I just wanted to have some time off. I just wanted to have some good food. I just wanted to have an easy “quick” flight off Melbourne.

I ended up in Penang after I read so many good reviews about the fantastic food.

I was so impressed by this island that I would not hesitate more than 5 minutes to book a flight and go back.

The attraction number one is food, even better than photography, which is quite rare for my personal priorities.

Worthless saying that food photography is clearly a must.

I based myself in George Town and from there I visited the island.

This town is the mecca of Malaysian street food and most probably one of the best “food-oriented” places in the world, a personal list that includes any typical Italian or French destination.

There are so many attractions in this island that I most definitely did not get bored.

On top of the list, there is George Town, the graffiti destination.

Crete – Greece


With so many islands Greece could not be left out of this list.

Most of the Greek islands are usually tiny.

Crete is big! You can spend either 2/3 months there or just visit it on multiple trips.

Decide if staying on the west side or the east side.

Do not make the mistake to see everything in two weeks.

You will just not have time to see anything at the end.

Photography is just amazing and it goes from the awesome villages to the deep gorges, the steep mountains and much much more.

Food is a dream and you will not get bored with the nightlife if you are into it.

Overall a great destination. If possible avoid August, a time when hotels are usually booked out.

The blue colour of the sea is just unique to this country and it inspired the national flag.

Read more on Crete here

Gili Trawangan – Indonesia

Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan

One of the problems I encounter in most of the places in Asia is pollution due to the vast amount of cars and motorbikes.

Kuta in Bali has been the worst so far.

However just grab a ferry from Bali and in few hours you are out in Gili Trawangan, a tiny island you can walk around in probably 2 hours with an easy-going fishing village offering places to sleep and eat.

The best is that there are no cars and you can only travel by donkey if you don’t really like walking of course.

Freshwater is rare, so remember to bring a special soup for salty water with you.

This island is not anymore a secret however you can still have a relaxed time.

There are another two islands in the Trawangan group, quieter, just in case, this is what you are looking for.

Photography opportunities are countless.

Wake up early and walk to the east side for a sunrise with the beautiful Bali landscape in the background.

Go to the sunset point for a lovely end of the day and remember to take a beer with you. 

Stay in the village to document the local lazy life.

Caye Caulker – Belize

Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker

My visit to Belize was completely unplanned.

I had some spare days and I was in Guatemala. I wanted to travel back to Mexico to catch my flight back home.

I was on a chicken bus and I started talking with few other travellers that highly suggest a stay in Caye Caulker, Belize.

An early bus from Guatemala took me to Belize City and after an easy power boat lift, I was in the island of Caye Caulker, one of the most relaxing places I have experienced in my life.

The language there is a mix of English and Spanish, so easy going.

My little Spanish helped me to get through and experience the local life, such a great time.

Photography wise expect to find a Cuban/Jamaican style environment, therefore plenty of opportunities for great portraits.

Just have a chat and a drink first, things are slow here and people like to communicate, to chat. Forget your mobile and Facebook.

The landscape is just amazing and the blue colour of the bay is one of the deepest I have ever seen in my life.

Enjoy your trip and photography experience.

Full Map of the top 5 islands I would visit again for more photography

Travel quotes on photos

Travel quotes on photos

Please feel free to use these photos on the following conditions: you link them back to the original text page using the text “Source: Over 150 quotes about travel and traveling” ( you do not modify the photo (no photoshop or other software to crop, change colours, etc) If you do not like the conditions … Read more

10 steps to be a still photographer in a feature movie production (Part 2)

10 steps to be a still photographer in a feature movie production (Part 1)

Last week we talked about the first 5 steps for a still photographer in a feature movie. We continue this week with the last 5 steps. Do not hesitate to add any comment. I will write later another article on gear and how to get involved in a movie production. 

Step #6 : The film crew

Be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time on set. Sometime there are big pauses in the day, just because lots of gear needs to be moved from scene to scene, the interior/exterior of the location has to be changed, make up is organised and much much more. What to do during these long pauses? Make a documentation of the backstage. The photos of the crew are very important, what they are doing, where they work. You may end up with some great shots.

Also the actors during the pauses are more relaxed. Again be a ghost. You can take shoot of them playing, talking, chatting or just waiting. Have a talk with them, they don’t bite. You may even use the lights of the set to do some portrait shooting. These will be all great photos that will work great on the movie website.

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Step #7 : Push your limits

One of the biggest problem I experienced was the light. Sometime it was too harsh, just in the middle of the day. Other times right in the middle of the cold night and the director wanted to have a wide photo, almost a landscape.

The harsh light can be somehow controlled with the reflectors and white filters. Take at least two with you. I usually work with a 1.5 meter high and a 2 meters one. That sorted out few of the issues I had. Again there is always somebody willing to help you. Of course, it is common sense to be nice to everybody on set and that should be the normal natural attitude of a photographer, if not of every human being 😀

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The lack of light is more of a problem. Push the ISO on is a suggestion, however there is a limit to it. I was able to to solve other situations with my tripod and asking the actors to stay still for 1-2 seconds. It worked. Again it is really a win-win situation for everybody.

Step #8 : Post-production

Have a talk with the producer and see what is the end result he/she would like to have. Provide few examples that you may find on the internet.

This works great if the producer has already a final effect in mind. If he/she does not, talk with the director about the story and check some of the film post production already done or example of movies he/she inspires from. Once you have an idea, do the post-production of the first days and show it to the director and the producer. That’s a great starting point. You will end up with the correct filters after few adjustments.

Use the same Lightroom/Photoshop filter for any photos you take. Have a common pattern and process, unless requested otherwise. Use Photoshop (or any similar sw) to remove unwanted objects from the photo, even better remove the object, if possible, before making the photo. The less time you spend in post-production the better.

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Keep always the original of course. I use Adobe Lightroom, however there are so many other alternatives.


Step #9 : Organise your photos

My rule of thumb is that if somebody is asking me for a photo I should be able to find it within 2 minutes in my computer. Wasting more time than 2 minutes means that there is something wrong with my archiving

With Lightroom I have organised the movie in a two level folders. The first level is the day with the location name (“20140927 Melbourne South Gate” as an example), I add a second level in case the shooting is in two or more locations (the first level is then just the date). Any folder in the second level has the site name.

When I import the photos I add straight away the keywords. I add the name of any main actor, the site, the scene number, the location (kitchen, bathroom, etc), director name, movie title, any important or unusual comment, type of scene (long shot, medium shot, close-up). This should cover 99% of the future requests.

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Step #10 : Backup your photos

This is very important. You just cannot ask the producer to shoot again a scene because your hard disk crashed. This is the process I usually use, not just for the movie case but for any assigned work.

If you have a camera that allow it, shoot on two cards. I usually work with a Nikon D600 which has two SD cards slots. You can set up the camera to save on both cards at the same time. You have already a backup meanwhile you make photos, that’s great. There is just one case when it does not work. When you do sequence shooting, like sport shooting and you want 10 photos in a second. That’s ok, you don’t need it in a movie, unless an action movie of course 😉 Just live with that and fingers crossed.

I usually store the photos at the end of the day, however, when possible, I try to copy the shooting during the lunch breaks as well. Better be safer.

Once synchronized in your Lightroom (or similar sw), do the post production. At the end export the photos you want to show to your producer/director in two formats, a light one (200K) and the 100% resolution one. Store both of them on a shared drive (GDrive, Copy or many others). The day after you can show the photos on your mobile/tablet directly from the shared drive, of course the low resolution ones. The high resolution ones are there in case there is an immediate need for the press or the producer. Be ready, you do not want to go back to your office to pick them up.

Every night you finish post production, launch either a back up or create a new collection including the photos of the day. This should be done on another drive of course. It is way too risky to have a backup on the same hard drive.

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During the film you will be exposed to a new environment which may be completely different to what you are used to. That is just great. To me, one of the best thing about photography is meeting new people, everyday is different, not the same day ever. If you like that, being in the film industry is probably something you may want to experience.

I was introduced to many Australian actors during the filming and in parties, everybody extremely nice. I may have been lucky of course but I never seen a big attitude in anybody. I wished I watch more TV because at least I could have recognized few faces, but maybe it’s better like that 😀

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10 steps to be a still photographer in a feature movie production (Part 1)

It was August 2014 that I came back to Melbourne from two months in Europe where I followed the Tour De France and I went to Greece for some travel photography. I was planning my next projects when I got a call by a friend of mine and film director, Simone Albano. I spent 4 weeks on the road following The Variety Cycle project with him. I was the photographer of this massive 4000km in 26 days event and he was the film maker.

He was starting directing a new feature movie called Experience the knowing and he was looking for a still photographer. Of course my experience in the filming industry was, well……. none. I had a long talk with Simone and I was captured by the project.

I thought I had in front of me a steep learning curve. My photography work never involved actors. I read a lot and watched many video about still photography in a feature movie. I started my work in September and I had 3 months of great fun. Sure, it was hard work, but when you enjoy doing it, that’s the best time of your life.

This is a list of 10 steps that can help anybody wanting to start this career:

Step # 1 : Do your homework

As in any type of photography be sure to have all your gear with you at any time. Do not assume that you may not need a zoom lens or a flash with you. Just take everything. Be sure to have at least a change of batteries and the chargers as well. You will need them.

Watch few YouTube videos that will introduce you to the new working environment. You need to be ready with your producer requests and you need to know the movie story. Once you arrive on set you should know already the scenes and how they will be filmed. Familiarize with environment and with the people you will be working with. You will spend a considerable amount of time with them, sometime in cold and unbearable situations.

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Step #2 : Be a ghost in the set

One of the nicest compliment I received was “wow, I haven’t noticed you for the all day”. That is what you should aim. There is a movie production on going and, like it or not, still photography is not the highest priority, it actually falls in the lower part of the scale.

A movie production can live without still photography, however it will have a much better life with it. Photos are extremely important in film festivals, in social environments, in websites and much more. If the producer provides captivating photos, there is a higher probability that people will watch the movie. It is a good marketing “tool”

In saying that you need to be very careful when you move on set. First of all there are the actors. When they get ready for a scene they need to live the scene, especially if it is an intense one, as it could be a suicide. Preparing for the state of mind is very important for the actor and you should not get in the middle of it. There will be time later.

The most important figure is the director, he/she has the view of the scene and he is going to communicate it to everybody, be there to understand it, always as quiet as possible.

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Than we have the people on set as the director of photography, camera man, assistants, etc. They need to move constantly to setup the right corner, to check the correct light, change the interior design and much more. Observe what they are doing, make photos but don’t stay in the middle of it.

Basically, be a ghost on the set


Step #3 : Silence please

Worthless to say that silence is paramount when filming. Guess what, even the click of your camera is a noise that cannot be done on set. Therefore, important, do not shoot during the filming. You can still do it in few cases as :

– the scene is without sound (it will be specified). Ask anyway the assistant of the director if you can shoot.

– you are really far away and you are working with a zoom. The background noise will cover your click. Again ask the assistant of the director if you can shoot.

It’s important to have the communication on going with your director. Do not assume you can shoot when filming in any circumstance.

Technically speaking you can still shoot on set, but be sure to use the correct gear for it as explained in this video, although it can be expensive and mostly used in Hollywood productions

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Step #4 : Flashing!

Take a flash with you at all time. Possibly one you can remotely control. There is a good number of people on set and you can always find somebody that can help you with the flash in case you do not have an assistant. Sometime the light is just not enough and without a flash you would not achieve good results. You can push the ISO to a real high level nowadays, however there is sometime a limit to it.

If you are not familiar with flash and remote flash, do your homework before going on set. Start making photos with harsh light (middle of the day) as well as in dark places and small environments. Train with high ISO and find the point where flash works better. Be familiar with the light and push your limit.

Sometime you can use the set lights and that works great! Other times you can’t and that’s where the experience comes in. Take a light meter with you and verify the conditions before you have the actors in front of you, that may help of course.

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Most important!! Scream FLASHING before you shoot. The DP and light technicians need to be aware you are flashing otherwise they may assume they have problems with the own bulbs. Again be transparent. You will soon understand who is after the light setting, just let him/her know first you are using the flash and again FLASHING before making any photo

Step #5 : Recreate the scene

You cannot take photos when they are filming. So, when is the right time? Just after a scene is completed, which it may be filmed of course from different corners. Stay on set to observe how is the scene. If you arrive too late you will not really know how was the scene. Somebody may show it to you but you need to be lucky, as everybody is way too busy.

You do not need to replicate the film, not from every corner. Just make you judgment on the best photo composition, which may be different from the filming composition

Agree with the assistant of the director to have 5-10 minutes after the scene to re-create the same environment and intensity. It may be difficult sometime as actors have already worked hard for that scene and they need a rest. However that may be the case for the first days. As soon as they see the photos and they love them, sure they will try their best to pose for you. These are the photos that go on the social environments, web, magazines, festivals and being on there it is indeed a great publicity for them, and for you of course. It is really a win-win situation.

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…..see Part 2 of this post here and remember to stay connected on FacebookTwitter or subscribe to the monthly email, so you won’t miss any new free tutorial and tips

What are the most photographed places in the world? Which city in Australia has more photos on the web?

Most photographed sites in the world

There is no easy answer. As usual, Google has started a map website showing areas in different colours based on the “photo index” popularity. New York comes out as the most photographed place in the world, followed by European cities as Paris, Rome and Barcelona. Buenos Aires is in the top 10, a well deserved … Read more