With a tropical climate, warm water, stunning scenery and friendly locals, it’s hardly surprising the Cook Islands is such a popular destination for travelers. However with the increased popularity comes increased prices. Here are my top 5 things to do in Rarotonga if you are traveling on a budget.
This track is a must do if it is your first time in Rarotonga. The Cross Island track starts in the Avatiu Valley south of the main town Avarua and ends on the picturesque South Coast. The 360° views from the summit (known as the Needle) are spectacular and an excellent photo opportunity. There is a waterfall you can swim in at the end which is ideal after working up a sweat! The hike takes 3-4hrs and you can catch a bus back to town from the main road.
For me this location on the South West corner of the Island offers the best snorkeling. This sheltered turquoise lagoon is best visited 1hr either side of high tide. There is an abundance of fish and unique corals. Keep your eye out for, turtles, sea snakes, moray eels and giant clams!
For some pure relaxation spend the day at one of the secluded palm fringed beaches. Getting too hot? Just jump in the water and cool off. The view back towards the Islands lush volcanic peaks is one you wont forget.
If you are feeling more adventurous the Island offers numerous reef breaks. Hollow lefts and rights break over shallow reefs, perfect for the competent surfer or bodyboarder. All of the breaks can be paddled to within a matter of minutes and are best on a mid to high tide. One of the best breaks is a 15min walk from the airport! The locals are friendly and can offer some advice on where it will be pumping!
Having transport will give you the freedom to explore the Island at your own pace. The main coastal road circumnavigates the Island for 32km and offers plenty of photo opportunities. For a more adventurous route, explore the inland ring road (ancient road). This rugged palm fringed road will give you a real insight in to the locals way of life.
Having a passion for photography is the first requirement to improve your photography. It will be your passion for photography that will get you out of bed at 5 AM to capture that epic sunrise shot.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to capture great images. A camera with manual functions and interchangeable lenses is an ideal starting point. You can now purchase a quality entry level SLR for under $1000 NZ. The camera lens is equally if not more important than the camera itself. Having one or two quality lenses is better than having four or five average ones. Also choose a lens that will suit your style. For example if shooting landscapes or astrophotography you want a wide-angle lens (24mm or less). If shooting wildlife or sport you will want a fast zoom lens (100mm +). The final piece of equipment I would recommend is a sturdy tripod.
Once comfortable with using your camera in automatic, start experimenting with manual modes. Learn the fundamentals of aperture, shutter and ISO:
Aperture – Refers to the opening in the lens through which light passes. It is written as numbers such as 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 etc. The lower number gives more exposure because they represent the larger apertures, while the higher number give less exposure because they represent smaller apertures. Aperture also affects the depth of field. It is all a little confusing to start with but becomes second nature with practice.
Shutter – The shutter speed determines how long shutter remains open as the picture is taken. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the exposure time. The faster the shutter speed the shorter the exposure time. For example a fast shutter freezes action for sports etc. A slow shutter can be used to slow the action, great for those dreamy waterfall photographs etc.
ISO – Measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the ISO number (eg100) the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. As you increase your ISO the more sensitive your camera is to light and the more grain introduced to the image.
For more information on these fundamentals check out improvephotography.com
Getting creative with composition is one of the most important yet often overlooked factors. Spend time composing your image and seeking a unique perspective. It might mean lying on the ground, standing on a ladder or getting your feet wet. Perspective costs nothing and can make the difference between an average and an amazing shot.
Get to know your software, there are plenty of great programs and most are affordable. I recommend Lightroom and once you gain more experience Photoshop is a great addition. Youtube is also an excellent learning resource. YouTube channels such as Phlearn and Lynda.com offer a variety of tutorials and generally these are free!
I hope these tips help and wish you all the best with your photography adventure. Any questions or for one on one tuition contact me here.
I am giving away 5 free landscape wallpapers that will fit up to iPhone 6 size! The wallpapers are various landscape locations in New Zealand including the infamous Wanaka Tree and the surreal turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki. Simply click the link below to download a zip file. Enjoy and feel free to share!
Want your images to be sharper and have more depth? Here’s a free action download i sometimes to achieve this effect.
To use just open photoshop, click on ‘window’ and then ‘actions’. Then click ‘load actions’ and find this file wherever you saved it. Now feel free to give it a blast on one of your photos.
Tip: Use the opacity setting on the top layer to adjust the amount of sharpening.
If you are keen to give your black and white photos a bit of extra pop and own Photoshop, feel free to give this action a go. To use just open photoshop, click on ‘window’ and then ‘actions’. Then click ‘load actions’ and find this file wherever you saved it. Now feel free to give it a blast on one of your photos. Tip: Use the opacity setting to adjust the contrast.