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12 Hardest Places To Visit On Earth

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 11th 2014

From impassable terrains to unstable political situations to strict visa regulations, there are just some places on Earth that you’d probably think twice about visiting — no matter how gorgeous. Fortunately, these adventurous 500px photographers dared to venture into these territories, so you wouldn’t have to. From Bhutan to Syria to Angola — read on and take a closer peek!

1. Bhutan



High up on a cliff 10,000 feet above sea level, the hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery is not for the faint of heart.


A local Bhutanese girl

2. Russia



With a sunrise like this, the frustrating and often-expensive experience of attaining a visa may just be worth it.




Architecture geeks will love staring up at this fine handiwork.


The famous five Corners Crossroad in St. Petersburg.

3. Uzbekistan


The beautiful Samarkand.


This is all that's left of what used to be one of the biggest lakes on Earth. Located near Moynak.

4. Syria

Earlier today, the UNICEF declared that Syria is one of the most dangerous countries for children.


Could this ship in its watery grave bear some parallels to the country it lives in?


In Aleppo.


Flanked by the fog, the Sarawat mountain range stands its ground.


The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

5. Turkmenistan



The Caspian Sea coast is simply dreamy.


Aptly-named "The Gates of Hell", you'll find this magnificently frightening crater in the Karakum Desert.

6. Libya



Under the sweltering Sahara Desert sun.


The ruins of an ancient Roman Empire-led city, Leptis Magna, still stand to this day.


Color-soaked Tripoli.

7. Somalia



So difficult to get into that we could only get a view from above.

8. Pakistan




Come face to face with the majesty of lions.


Karakoram is a mountain of Tolkienesque proportions. We can almost imagine dwarves milling about here.


Here's wishing this placid lake in Skardu is as easy to get to as hopping on the next plane.


A whole village on the side of a mountain found in Dassu.


Grass all around in an unsual landscape near Laskargass Karamber in Gilgit.


Dare to go camping at night in Karakoram?


Crossing over Peshawar over the mist.

9. Afghanistan



A game of buzkashi is in session.


The sublime beauty of the Hindu Kush.


Gorgeous canyon sprawling wide.


A cold morning in Kabul could leave you trembling.

10. Saudi Arabia



A long train of camels on the border of Saudi Arabia and UAE.


Magnificent Makkah.


On the other side of Makkah lies the Red Sea.

11. Equatorial Guinea


You may have never heard of it. There's a reason for that.


At least it's as pretty as a painting.


El Pico Malabo is a dormant volcano.

12. Angola



The Kalandula Falls is one of the largest known waterfalls in Africa.


High up on the windy ridges of Serra da Leba.


No one is a match for the Angolan lion.


Roaring through Lubango Road at sunset.

Which of these locations do you find the most beautiful? Which one gave you a bad case of wanderlust? Which one of these would you swear never to visit — ever? Do you have any personal experiences traveling in these countries to share? Let us know in the comments below! Safe travels!
     

Win Flixel's Cinemagraph Pro Software — Worth $200!

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 10th 2014

Wanna see your photos come to life? Flixel gives photographers and videographers a simple way to create "living photos" with Cinemagraph Pro.

Enter Our Flixel Giveaway

Thanks to our friends at Flixel, we are giving away free download codes (worth $200) to 4 lucky 500px fans. All winners will be drawn at random.

There are 4 ways to enter:
1. Upload a photo to your 500px profile, and tag it: #500pxflixel (View all entries here)
2. Enter via Facebook
3. Enter via Twitter
4. Enter via Google Plus

Deadline: You have until on 2 p.m. PST on Thursday, March 13 to enter.
Good luck, and pass the word around!

If you’d like to try out Cinemagraph Pro, now is a good time. It’s on sale for only $14.99 until 12 a.m. on Thursday, March 13.

     

Weekly Monday Contest

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 10th 2014

Want to be featured on our blog? Every week, we'll announce a theme, and you'll have until next Sunday to submit your photo as an entry. You may already have an existing photo that fits the theme, or you can take this as a challenge to shoot and upload a brand new photo.

So who were our favorites from last week's theme, Face To Face? Read on to find out. Plus, check out our brand new theme for next week, and how to enter the contest.

This Week's Gallery

Last week, you made sure that we never forgot a face. We asked you to submit portraits and close-ups for the theme, Face To Face — and we received more than 1,600 entries! Below are our 12 favorite portraits from all the contest entries. Click on each thumbnail to open a full-sized version, and prepare to meet a new face!

Which of the portraits below fascinate you the most? Let us know in the comments below!


New theme: GREEN

1. Select a photo that fits this theme. Upload the image to your 500px profile, or pick an existing photo.
2. Add a tag "500pxgreen".
3. You're done! To track all entries, click here.

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up next week, we’d love to get into the spirit and see the color green everywhere. The theme is totally open to your own interpretation, so get creative — start snapping and tagging now! Deadline is March 16th at 12PM (PST).

As always, we will hold a random draw giveaway for all those who enter the challenge. You will have the chance to win two months of Awesome membership! Our lucky draw winner of the week is Erwann Maignan.

Good luck, everyone. We can't wait to see this Gallery turn green!



     

5 Fab Photographer Q&A's To Read Today

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 8th 2014

Today, the world celebrates International Women’s Day to honor and remember the social and political triumphs of brave and empowered women throughout history. Every day should inspire the desire for progress of course, but today is a day of remembrance — a reminder of the many battles that women have won and lost, and all the work that still needs to be done.

Here at 500px, we admire and value the works of the women in our community. From landscapes to portraits — the women in our community have shared their points of view of the world through their photographs and art. We’re happy to have this platform where women’s thoughts, voices, and skills are heard, seen, and appreciated. Photography, after all, is not just a powerful tool for change and inspiring change, but also for self-expression.

So we sat down with five female photographers to ask them about their style, personal passions, technique, and the advice they’d like to pass on to a younger generation of aspiring photographers. Read on for some nuggets of wisdom, and discover their awe-inspiring works!

NICOLE S. YOUNG

How do you describe your style?

NICOLE: I am a very happy person, and I think that shines through in my work. I love color, and my portfolio tends to be very bright and vibrant. I have also photographed a variety of subjects throughout the years — people, food, landscapes, travel. I love it all! Mostly, I see myself as an explorer, just searching for something beautiful to photograph.

What's the best thing about being a woman in this industry?

NICOLE: Women are amazing members of teams and communities. In fact, I just finished leading a photography workshop in Thailand, with another amazing woman photographer — Kate Havercroft — for The Giving Lens. The entire workshop team consisted of women, and we went to an NGO to teach photography to young girls who were at-risk for being pulled into the sex slave industry. The fact that I had the opportunity to be a part of these young girls lives, as well as spend my time with and educate an amazing group of photographers, was life changing.

Are there any disadvantages to being a woman in this industry?

NICOLE: Honestly, I have never felt that I was at a disadvantage as a woman photographer. The great thing about online and social media is that our work shines through, not necessarily "what" we are as a person. Our background and who we are only adds to our voice, and being different — whether it is a difference of gender, ethnicity, or experience — all adds to the diversity of our photographs. I see the world the way I see it, not because I am a woman, but because I am my own unique individual.

We're curious. What's best advice you've ever gotten?

NICOLE: The best advice I have ever gotten was to spend my money and time on experiences, not fancy gear or "stuff". I love to travel, and while it can be tempting to set money aside for another camera or lens, I would much rather put it towards a trip to a country I have never visited. Not that buying new gear is a bad thing, but just to realize that it cannot replace the happiness I would get from travel and exploring the world.

If you could capture one thing in the world with your art, what would it be?

NICOLE: I think we are all chasing the "perfect" photograph. It's almost impossible to say what that would be. Maybe it's a great white shark jumping out of the water in South Africa, or an amazingly vivid and lush landscape in Norway—both of which I hope to experience one day. I think that the one thing I would desperately want to photograph, but likely never will, would be the Earth from space. Even just seeing it from that vantage point with my own two eyes would be enough!

LISA HOLLOWAY


Tell us how you discovered photography.

LISA: I have always been a creative, artistic person. As a child, I would spend hours drawing and painting - nothing made me happier. As I grew up and became a mother, the desire to better capture my own children and my love for art combined and I fell head over heels in love with photography.

Where do you find inspiration as a photographer?

LISA: Everywhere! My children are a huge source of inspiration for me, as are the amazing colors and textures found in nature and the different seasons.

How do you describe your style?

LISA: Dramatic, rich, and emotive. I always strive to capture my subject's true spirit in a beautiful, enticing way.

What's the best thing about being a woman in this industry?

LISA: I think that being a mother and a woman really play to my advantage in my portrait work. Children naturally feel at ease with me, and because of this, I am able to capture their true spirit in my photographs.

Are there any disadvantages to being a woman in this industry?

LISA: I think that there is a certain stigma that can come with being a female natural light photographer. We are often labeled as 'mwacs' — moms with a camera, or a photographer who simply uses natural light as a crutch because we do not know how to use artificial lighting.

Do you have any advice for young girls who want to become photographers when they grow up?

LISA: Do not let anything stop you from chasing your dreams! This industry can be crazy at times, but there really is no better feeling than earning a living doing something you love.

What's best advice you've ever gotten?

LISA: Do not be afraid to say NO.

What are your go-to cameras, lenses, or gear?

LISA: I am a Canon girl through and through! I shoot with the 5D Mark III and a variety of different lenses. I currently own the 200mm 2.0L, 70-200mm 2.8L II, 100mm macro, 90mm TS-E, 85mm 1.2L, 50mm 1.2L, and the 16-35mm 2.8L II. My absolute favorite, hands down, is the 200mm 2.0L. If I have the space to work it, that lens does not leave my camera.

Are there any photographers whose work you admire?

LISA: Absolutely! There are so many, that I couldn't possibly list them all, but Magdalena Berny's work with children is amazing. What she captures in the eyes of the children she photographs is beautiful and real — and something I strive for in my own work.

If you could photograph one thing in the world, what would it be?

LISA: The true spirit, or soul of every person that steps in front of my camera. I fully realize that this is a lofty and probably unachievable goal, but it won't stop me from trying.

ELENA SHUMILOVA

How did you discover photography?

ELENA: A year and a half ago, I borrowed my parents’ DSLR and started playing around with it. I took photos every day, observing and analyzing what I liked in my shots and what I didn’t. My inspiration is my two sons. Naturally, I was drawn to take photos of them. At first, I thought that it was important to have fancy outfits and a studio in order to take beautiful photos. Later, I realized that the simpler the setting and the clothes are, the easier it is to capture genuine moments. I spent six months learning photography, digesting my triumphs and failures. Eventually it came to a point where people would start complimenting my work. It was within that period of time that I bought my very own camera with which I shoot to date. It is no secret — I photograph with a Canon 5D MKII.

What other lenses or gear do you use often?

ELENA: My favorite lens is 135mm/2.0. And I don’t hide my equipment or EXIF information. They are publicly available on my 500px profile. Just click on any of my images, and you will see all the details in the description, including what camera, lens, and camera settings I used to get that particular shot.

What inspires you to take photographs?

ELENA: Music, sunlight, and the emotion of people.

How do you describe your style?

ELENA: My style is my desire to communicate something special with the least amount of everything. My photos are circumstantial. I photograph my children because they are here with me, and the setting is rural because we spend a lot of time here at the cottage. I use natural light. The clothes are what my children usually wear, so there are no special outfits. My style is effortless, capturing life as it is and translating the 3D world into a 2D form. I work hard at it — and I love it when you can instill originality into something very simple.

Who are your favorite photographers?

ELENA: Jake Olson, Magdalena Berny, Brooke Shaden, Lara Zankoul, Anka Jhuravleva, Sean Archer, Miki Asai, Silena Lambertini, Oprisco, Bill Gekas, Sarawut Intarob, and many others.

Do you have any advice for young girls who want to become photographers when they grow up?

ELENA: Believe in yourself.

LISA BETTANY

Can you tell us how you discovered photography?

LISA: When I was 20 years old, I suffered a tragic back injury from a fall while competitively figure skating. After losing my sport and my mobility, I needed a creative outlet. A friend loaned me a DSLR and I started taking photos and sharing them on my blog. As my passion for photography grew, I was motivated to heal and capture the beauty of the world.

Where do you find inspiration as a photographer?

LISA: Right now, my inspiration is the world around me. The more of the world I see and experience, the more I want to capture with my camera. If I can't travel, I visit 500px. It's like a window to the world from the lens of some of the most gifted photographers in the world.

How do you describe your photography style?

LISA: My style is continually evolving, but I always try to maintain a sense of realism while capturing extremely beautiful things.

What are your favorite go-to camera, lenses and gear?

LISA: My main gear is a Canon 5DMK3, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L, 24-70mm, 70-200mm f/2.8L and 100mm f/2.8 macro lenses, and a RRS TVC-23 tripod with a BH-55 ballhead.

What's best piece of industry advice you've ever gotten?

LISA: Take photographs for yourself. You are the artist and the ultimate judge of your work.

Can you talk a bit about the advantages and disadvantages — if there are any — of being a woman in this industry?

LISA: Before I was a photographer, I was a model. I understand how vulnerable it feels to be in front of the lens, and use this to put my subjects at ease. There are no disadvantages that you can't turn upside down and use as an advantage. There are certainly more male photographers than female photographers, but there are not more talented male photographers than female photographers. There was a certain novelty factor of being not only a woman photographer, but a woman in technology. I used this to my advantage in my early days, but I had to work hard to prove my talents beyond this novelty.

What would be your advice for young girls who want to get into photography?

LISA: Start taking photographs of things around you with whatever camera you have. You don't need the best camera in the world to take amazing photographs. Go on a journey. Tell your story with your pictures and share them with everyone you know. Collect your 10 best shots and make a portfolio. Then experiment, shoot, and never give up!

Who are the photographers you admire?

LISA: Steve Simon, a Canadian documentary photographer, was one of the first photographers I met on my journey. His passion for photography is unparalleled. His imagery tells more than just a story, but evokes a powerful feeling. I will admit to tearing up over many of his photos. He is a true gift to the art form. In 500px, Callum Snape, a Canadian landscape photographer based in Banff, AB is truly inspiring. Sasha L'Estrange-Bell, a young British portrait photographer that I have been following for years always inspires me with her love of life. Marc Adamus, an epic landscape photographer makes me jealous and want to travel on a daily basis.

ROESELIEN RAIMOND


How did you get into photography?

ROESELIEN: Not so very long ago, I had a successful career as a designer, a busy social life, and a relationship. So far so good! What bothered me though, was the total lack of time to sit back and enjoy it. Somehow I felt a longing for fresh air, feeling a calm breeze through my hair, and tickling grass under my feet. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but it had something to do with the feeling that I used to have as a child when I would be climbing trees and building huts. I could totally forget about time, cold, dirt or hunger, and was always late for diner. Not looking back, not worrying about tomorrow, just being there, and enjoying the moment. Still being a bit of a thrill-seeker, I needed some challenge. For me, a camera turned out to be a great excuse to climb over fences, to swim with frogs, or to crawl through the mud. And of course to be late for dinner again!

Well said! Where do you find inspiration as a photographer?

ROESELIEN: Inspiration can be found everywhere. Sometimes, it’s a spectacular action or a cute furry model, just begging for a shoot. Sometimes, it’s the magical light that hypnotizes me. I love to photograph foxes, because their unpredictability keeps challenging me. But this fascinating microcosmos, with all its mysterious little inhabitants easily inspires me as well. I think the main ingredients for me are surprise and emotion. When something touches me, all I can do is … click.

How would you describe your style?

ROESELIEN: That’s a difficult, yet interesting question. I’m surely not the world most technical photographer. Although my understanding of my gear is fine. I shoot mostly manual. I use it quite intuitively. No tripod, no bean bag, no camouflage. A frequently heard comment is that my pictures have something personal; almost intimate. That is something I could relate to because that’s me, I guess. I’ve always been interested in animals, and I’m eager to know what they do, who they are, why they do what they do, where they do it, how, and when. Capturing a tack sharp registration is not my cup of tea. I’m trying to catch a bit of the character, the feeling of the moment, the atmosphere of that day. In fact, I don’t like to think so much about what I’m doing. I just like to do as I feel and maybe this is what others define as style.

Today is International Women's Day, so we have to ask about the issue of sexism. Do you believe that it still exists in your industry?

ROESELIEN: Oh yeah. I don’t know about other photography sectors, but nature photography definitely is a man’s world! I usually get along well with my male colleagues, but some of them...standing in line, dressed in green from head to toe, with their big lenses in clear sight, so there couldn’t be any misunderstanding about that. Some look at me with somewhat disapproving glances. Such a small girl with such a small lens, not to be taken seriously. They keep bragging about their incredible photo adventures, sharing one highly important message: “My lens is bigger than yours!" But on a positive note, I see more and more women entering the world of nature photography. I think their different approach is a welcome addition!

If you could photograph one thing in the world, what would it be?

ROESELIEN: I can’t think of just one special subject. It’s about the wonder of nature in general, of living beings. I think if people not only see beauty through my photos, but actually feel it, and realize that this is the world we all live in — then my mission would be accomplished!

To see more of their inspiring body of work, follow Nicole S. Young, Lisa Holloway, Elena Shumilova, Lisa Bettany, and Roeselien Raimond.

Got a question for Nicole, Lisa, Elena, Lisa, or Roeselien about one of their photos, their technique and style, or their thoughts? Ask them below!

     

Tutorial: Time Stack

Published by Alexandra Kim · March 7th 2014



Today I’d like to introduce the brilliant Matt Molloy, photography enthusiast and budding professional. He’s the author of those amazing impressionist inspired photos. So many people have asked how to do this technique, and he’s been gracious enough to share it here with us! Please enjoy this Time Stack Tutorial.


I've always been amazed by timelapse photography and the unique perspective of time it gives you. Once I got into photography, it was a natural direction for me to go. The more I explored timelapse photography, the more I realized how versatile it is. You can get so much out of a timelapse; an interesting video; the perfect shot (selected from several hundred photos of the same scene), enhanced details and distortion correction (often done in astrophotography); or removing elements from a scene (like cars or people). Last, but not least, my favorite is often what I call "time stacking". This technique of layering multiple still photos has been used for years to create "stars trails" from timelapse sequences.

Here is an example of a "star trail" image I created from a series of 305 photos.



Once I made a few star trail images, I wondered why I've never seen this technique used on daylight timelapses. I tried it and, after a little tweaking here and there, I was astounded by the resulting images! They are kind of like a super long exposure, showing a large chunk of time in a single image, which is very much like the Impressionist movement that some clever painters came up with around the year 1870.

Here is my very first attempt at a daylight "timestack".



Here's what you need to make a "time stack" yourself:


1. A camera and an intervalometer (a device to make your camera take pictures repeatedly at a given interval). If you have a Canon camera, like I do, there's a good chance that you can download free software called Magic Lantern that gives you lots of new features including an intervalometer built right into your camera. Perhaps there's similar software for other brands of cameras, and if not, most cameras will be able to use a remote control that includes intervalometer function. Here's a bunch of different remotes.

2. Something to fix your camera in position while it shoots multiple photos, such as a stable tripod. The sturdier the better! I've found that a weight on a rope attached to the center of the tripod helps a lot when it's windy. I am speaking from experience here! It doesn't take a lot of wind to blow your tripod over, sending your precious equipment for costly repairs. I use a good size stone block with a hole drilled through it hung on the tripod, just below my camera.

3. Photo editing software. I use Adobe's Photoshop, so that's what I will demonstrate in this tutorial, but I'm sure there's lots of other software that can achieve the same effect. I've even seen mobile apps that do everything you need to make a time stack.

4. A little time and patience. (Photography aside, I think most of us could use a little of both.)



Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding timelapse source material for creating great "timestacks":


1. Source Material.
I have found that my best results come from shooting a scene which contains both fixed and moving elements. For example, a field with a barn and clouds moving overhead. A sunset thrown in the mix makes for some beautiful, colourful, smeared clouds.

2. Exposure levels.
Your exposure levels play a significant role in the successful creation of a great "time stack". Set your exposure based on the brightest moving elements. For example, with bright moving clouds, expose for the clouds. Aside from the sun, the clouds are usually the brightest part of my photos, so I use them to judge my exposure levels. If they are overexposed your "timestack" will have pure white streaks in the sky. Add too many of those together and you'll have a solid white sky when it's all said and done.

3. Interval.
Figure out the speed things are moving. You don't need a radar gun, just take a few test shots (2 or 3) and take note of the interval (time between shots) I'll use clouds as an example, but this applies to any moving or changing elements in the timelapse.

The speed that the clouds are moving along with the interval between shots can drastically affect how a time stack will look. For smooth looking, painterly strokes (made by the clouds) you'll want to keep the distance that the clouds travel very short from one shot to the next. If the clouds are moving fast you'll want to use a shorter interval between shots.

If the clouds are moving slow, you'll want to user a longer interval between shots so you don't end up with a ton of photos that show little movement of the clouds. For a different look, you can set an interval that allows the clouds to move further between shots. This gives an interesting stepped, repetition to the moving elements in the resulting "time stack". I know this can sound a little confusing, but it all becomes very obvious once you try both methods.



Stacking multiple photos into one image


Like I said before, there's lots of different programs that can stack photos. I use Photoshop, so this is the program I'll be talking about, but some of this stuff might relate to other programs as well.

Here's the basic idea. Open the first photo of your timelapse, this will be your bottom layer. Add the second photo from the timelapse on a new layer. Change the top layers blending mode to lighten. Merge both layers together. This adds only the parts of the second image that are brighter than the same area on the original image. Repeat with as many photos from the timelapse as you like. You will get used to selecting the right number of pictures for the effect you want.

That method takes a long time! (Trust me, I've done it a few times.) I tried to write a script to automate the process, and I got pretty close, but in the end I couldn't figure out how to make it work. Luckily, I found a website called starcircleacademy.com that offered a photoshop script that did exactly what I wanted. I bought it for a small fee and I've been using it ever since. It's faster than stacking photos manually and you can do other things while it's running.

I usually try stacking all the photos from a timelapse first, and if that's too much (they can get messy sometimes) I take some out and try again with less photos. I'll keep doing that until I find the sequence of photos that look best.

Once I've got the photos stacked, I make a few adjustments with shadows/highlights to bring back some details in the bright areas, and I add some contrast, or use levels to make the blacks darker, because things can get a little washed out when stacking with the lighten blending mode.

There you have it. Now go shoot some timelapses, and try it for yourself if you like. I'm curious to see how your time stacks turn out, so head over to my Facebook page and post a link to a time stack you made. Also, feel free to send me a message if your having trouble, and I'll do my best to help you out.

Best of luck and happy snapping!


     

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