Capture Your Moment Under Alaska’s Northern Lights

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Few things can rival the experience of looking up to see a night sky covered in dancing ribbons of light: the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. These mysterious lights draw thousands of visitors to Alaska during the winter and shoulder seasons, when night skies are dark enough for the colors of the aurora to shine through.

The only thing better than carrying a memory of the northern lights home with you is capturing them in a photo, too – so I turned to Todd Salat, the Aurora Hunter, professional photographer, and owner of the Todd Salat Shots gallery in Anchorage, for some advice on how to make that happen.

Prep before your trip

The key to capturing aurora with both camera and heart? Salat says it’s taking the time to practice night photography before you leave on your trip, along with accepting that no matter how good you are or what kind of camera you’re using, a certain amount of trial and error is inevitable.

“Practice in the backyard before you go, or even in a closed bedroom with the lights off and a candle as a target,” he advises. And although with a bit of luck you can capture amazing aurora photos on late-model mobile devices, if you’re after a hero shot you can blow up and hang on the wall, you’re going to need a higher-end digital camera and a tripod.

“The first thing you need to do is stabilize your camera,” Salat goes on to say, “After that, it’s all about exposing the relatively low light onto the sensor of your camera.” That means learning to twiddle a few settings in manual mode: ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop or aperture.

Get ready for trial and error

Cameras, lenses, and shooting conditions all vary enormously, so Salat recommends starting by making sure you have some light preserved on your camera. Set your shutter speed between five and 10 seconds, place the aperture as wide as possible to let the most light in (select the lowest possible f-stop setting), and crank the ISO as high as you can tolerate it. Salat usually starts shooting at ISO 3200 but notes that on some cameras, ISO 1600 is a good place to start.

Then, take a picture and check the results in your camera’s LCD. At a high ISO, your camera sensor is more sensitive to light than your eye, so even if all you see is the vague white light of a dim aurora, your camera might be able to see green and other colors. If the picture is too grainy or “noisy,” that’s because of a high ISO. But since the most common mistake Salat sees from hopeful photographers is underexposing their photos, it’s better to overexpose at first, so you at least see something on the screen, then dial it back.

Once you have the first trace of light on your screen, tweak your settings to suit conditions in the moment. As a general rule, keep the aperture as wide open as possible as you adjust the balance of ISO and shutter speed. A higher ISO lets you use a faster shutter speed, while a lower ISO requires a slower shutter speed to allow more light through the lens.

Focus on the light

Knowing how those settings relate to each other and being comfortable adjusting them before you find yourself standing under the ever-changing aurora, will get you most of the way to great photo memories of your Alaska experience. But if the stars or foreground objects in your shot are fuzzy, you may have a problem with your lens focus.

“You need to set your lens to infinity focus, then dial it back a hair,” Salat explains. “But the width of that hair varies from lens to lens.” His solution? Go into live view mode, focus on a star or a foreground object that you’ve illuminated by headlamp, then tape your focus ring in place so it’ll stay at just the right setting. Once that’s done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the hunt for a perfect photo memory.

“I think the number one thing you want to do is enjoy the experience,” he says. And as long as you take the time to practice adjusting your camera settings beforehand, you can have your aurora experience and photograph it, too.

Additionally, follow these tips for a seamless aurora photography experience:

  • Use a remote shutter release or short shutter delay so your long exposure isn’t blurred by the motion of your finger on the camera.
  • Bring extra camera batteries – they run out quickly in the cold. Keep the spares in an inside pocket of your jacket or stash them in a warm place.
  • When you bring your camera back inside, put it in a plastic bag to keep the lens from icing over.
  • Bring a headlamp with a red-light mode so you can see what you’re doing without disrupting your night vision or photos with splashes of bright white light.

 

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Odenza Reviews: Island-Hopping in Hawaii

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Adventure travel in Hawaii is hot and happening. Granted, America’s 50th state is well-known for destination weddings and tiki drinks, but there are also activities suitable for every level of adrenaline as you explore these legendary Pacific Ocean islands. From helicopter rides and jet boat tours to stand-up paddleboarding and whale-watching, Hawaii has never offered more exciting adventures.

Maui

You don’t have to be a fan of military thrillers like The Hunt for Red October to enjoy a submarine tour of Lahaina Harbor with Atlantis Adventures. On a custom-built, 48-passenger submarine, view eels, sharks, and colorful tropical fish as you dive down 100 feet and motor past coral reefs and a sunken ship, with an interpreter providing educational commentary.

If you’d rather stay close to the surface, a high-speed Blue Water Rafting boat tour is a thrilling option, especially on a sunny morning. Go snorkeling among sea turtles and manta rays and check out lava arches and sea caves along the Maui coast during a four-hour tour. And from November to April, keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales. Blue Water Rafting launches from the Kihei Maui Boat Ramp beneath Mount Haleakala.
Alternatively, soar over Haleakala with a Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour, diving into deep, lush canyons with waterfalls and admiring eucalyptus trees and sugar cane fields.
Stand-up paddleboarding provides a fantastic core workout. Whether you’re a SUP veteran or newbie, you can hone your skills with lessons from a Moana Athletic Club instructor. The panoramic vistas at Kaanapali Beach as you balance atop your board make it genuinely magical.

Oahu

Nothing screams “Hawaii!” like surfing at Waikiki Beach. This two-mile strip of white sand witnessed a surfing revival in the early 1900s, thanks to legendary Waikiki beach boy Duke Kahanamoku. Today, local Honolulu operators like Waikiki Beach Services and Hans Hedemann Surf School are happy to rent you a board and help you progress toward your “hang 10” dreams on these welcoming waves.

Hawaii Water Center offers more adventures from wakeboarding to jet skiing. If you’re looking for a more elevated perspective, you can go parasailing, riding single or tandem, over Oahu’s gleaming water, going as high as 1,000 feet. Or head to the North Shore and learn how to fly a powered hang glider from Hang Gliding Hawaii, enjoying views of Makua Valley and Waimea Bay.

The Big Island

One of Hawaii’s top ziplining experiences is the Akaka Falls Zipline Tour by Skyline Eco-Adventures. Not only do you whiz over a 250-foot-tall waterfall on this seven-line, 2.5-hour tour, but you also traverse landscapes featuring banana farms, wild pigs, and lush rainforests. Between ziplines, eat fresh local guava and passion fruit, and learn about the Big Island’s history and botany from your guides.

The 1994-established Ocean Safaris offers scintillating kayak tours in Kona’s pristine Keauhou Bay. Build your fitness while paddling amid spinner dolphins and sea turtles.

Molokai

Provided you’re not prone to vertigo, the Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour is a thrilling must-do. Riding a well-trained mule during this 1,700-foot descent off the sea cliffs on Molokai’s north coast, you’ll feel your pulse pounding on the 2.9-mile-long trail, which includes 26 switchbacks. At the bottom, take a poignant tour of a former leper colony, now part of a national historical park.

Lanai

Rusty wrecks of World War II navy boats greet visitors to Shipwreck Beach, a windswept, eight-mile-long beach on Lanai’s north coast. More than 10 vessels – including schooners, barges, and steamships – either experienced shipwreck or were intentionally grounded here. The most adventurous way to get to Shipwreck Beach is renting a jeep from Dollar Rent a Car in Lanai City. After the joyfully bouncy ride, hike over to check out the Kukui Point petroglyphs as well.

 

 

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Odenza Reviews: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Known for its stunning safari tours, Zanzibar is a city that will leave travelers breathless. From watching beautiful sunsets on the finest beaches to seeing amazing coral gardens, Zanzibar is a popular tourist destination for so many reasons.

Famous for scuba diving, Zanzibar is a tropical archipelago and can be easily accessible by ferry departing from Dar Salam. Once you arrive in Zanzibar, roaming around Stone Town, an ancient city that is regarded as a cultural heritage site, is an absolute must.  Stone Town became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 2000s and is the oldest part of Zanzibar. Due to its rich cultural fusion of Arab, Indian, Persian and European cultural elements, Stone Town will leave tourists in awe of the food and the interesting narrow alleys with small and quaint markets.

For tourists seeking out serene beaches with turquoise waters, both Paje and Kendwa are hot spots for relaxing and scuba diving. For full moon parties, Kendwa is a great choice for those looking for a night out.

Overall, Zanzibar is a beautiful city with lots to offer on both the scenic and historical aspects. Because of its rich and unique cultural elements, Zanzibar has the best spice tours for foodies and the maze-like structure of the town will leave an imprint on travelers. Famous for its turquoise waters and white sand, the beaches in Zanzibar are out of this world and should be enough of a reason to travel to Zanzibar!

Odenza Reviews Seoul, South Korea

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Located in South Korea, Seoul is a beautiful and vibrant city that is bound to leave a long-lasting impression on travelers on the hunt for a unique and memorable adventure.  With a population of 9.76 million, it is one of the fastest-growing cities up to date and as such, there is always something interesting and exciting to do in the city. From Palaces to animal cafes, Seoul has plenty to offer to different types of tourists.  One of the great things about traveling around South Korea is that there is no such thing as an area that is impossible to get to as transit is easily accessible and there is also a bullet train available.

While in Seoul, roaming around Insadong on a nice afternoon is a must and has many unique craft cafes that are bound to be memorable. Visiting Gyeongbokgung palace and Hanok village are also must-see top attractions that will give travelers some insight into Korea’s rich history. Home to the third-largest city park, Seoul Forest is a quaint and beautiful escape for those wanting a short escape from the bustling city.  In terms of nightlife, tourists will not be disappointed as they can head down to Hongdae or Gangnam which are known to have various fun lounges that are open 24/7. 

 

 

Odenza Reviews Taipei, Taiwan

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Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city, offers the perfect balance of the city bustle and scenic nature spots. With a beautiful and unique combination of both the Japanese and Chinese cultures, Taipei is a sprawling city guaranteed to leave travelers amazed.

Taipei is well known for its noteworthy skyscraper called ‘Taipei 101’ which stands 501 meters high and has 101 floors. Formally known as the Taipei World Financial Center, Taipei 101 used to be the world’s tallest building up until 2010 when The Burj Khalifa in Dubai was built.

 

Odenza Reviews Lisbon, Portugal

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When you’re dreaming up your next European vacation, consider discovering Lisbon! The coastal capital city of Portugal. This Mediterranean city has become a more and more popular destination for travelers recently for its warm climate, culture and many historical spots to visit.  Explore the city’s historic and unique attractions including São Jorge Castle, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, The Lisbon Oceanarium, The 25 de Abril suspension bridge, National Museum of the Azulejo, Tagus Estuary Natural Reserve and much more.

Odenza Reviews The Galápagos Islands

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The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. It’s considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for unique wildlife exploring. Located approx. 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, the remote terrain is home to a variety of plant and animal species, many of which cannot be found elsewhere. Activities available within the iconic tourist destination include guided excursions, trekking, snorkeling, kayaking scuba diving, or enjoying the amazing beaches.