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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Kim is in Hawaii right now! We are so jealous!

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Odenza team member is in Hawaii right now! We are so jealous!

“We stayed in Lahaina the first night at the Lahaina Inn, a quaint little hotel right downtown by the harbour. It was a great spot to explore Lahaina the next day.

Lahaina is a historic town that has been transformed into a Maui hot spot with art galleries, unique shops and restaurants.

When in Hawaii, you must get leied! We met two sweet elderly ladies making and selling Leis for their senior charity fund.

We’re staying at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villa for the next 3 nights. These are time share villas with full kitchen, washer/dryer and jacuzzi which I thoroughly enjoyed!

The resort is quite big with multiple swimming pools and geared towards families with children. It’s on a beautiful stretch of beach and the sunset is stunning!

Today we are going on the Molokini Snorkelling tour and visiting Turtle Town!

Mahalo!!
Kim”

El Dorado Royal, Mexico

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El Dorado, will you marry me? Because I am in love with you!

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Wow, this place is class. The property, the staff and the visitors alike are truly the best of the best. The expansive property, connecting A number of Karisma properties, is filled with unexpected cozy (and romantic!) areas – hammocks strung between Palm trees that are light at night and that let in the breeze, day beds with white silk sides for privacy, are dotted throughout, not just on the beach, but in all areas. There is a lazy river that winds through the property, which is fun to follow on foot, across bridges, or even better, in the water, drink in hand.
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The atmosphere is friendly, visitors chatting in the pool and bars, and the personal concierge for every building is an added touch that helps answer questions and concerns.

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The restaurants are definitely gourmet, with fresh ingredients and prepared to order. We arrived and were recommended to start with a chocolate martini from the martini bar, that was a delicious way to start! The Asian restaurant wasn’t quite as good as the one at secrets, but the south west style restaurant was amazing, with set courses and the best server yet (the small lizards running around added a cool flare too!)

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The shows have been particularly awesome, with singers and dancers going all out – I even went on stage today (are you surprised?!)

We are here for only two nights and wish we could stay for a year.

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There are a lot of ads on the property for karisma resorts, and while it’s a little vegasy and in your face, it helped direct us to book a half day adventure at the el dorado maroma marina. It’s a 15 minute drive included in the package, and we did the ATV jungle tour, followed by a jet ski ride. Fun, but more adventurous than we expected!

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Will definitely write more about the good and the less good (like the glass bathroom door that doesn’t give you privacy, and the stuffy smell in the room), but all that aside, this place is heaven!

Secrets Playa. Day 3-5

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Hello again from beautiful Secrets Playa Mujeres! With a banana banshee (our favourite drink) in hand,  I’m writing after we have had a great couple of days here and will be sad to leave.

Since arriving, we’ve gotten to know the resort well. It’s small and easy to manage, with one section housing the lobby and most of the restaurants, and all the rooms, the pools and a few more restaurants close together in a separate section, near the beach. There is a golf cart that takes you between the two areas, and there is never any wait. Because the portions are smaller, we have also taken to restaurant hopping – eating at at two places for dinner, so that we can try everything in our short time here. On Friday night, it was oceanana and bordeu, the French restaurant (the duck dishes were amazing!). On Saturday, it was seaside grill and then himistu, the Asian restaurant, which was our favourite hands down. Tonight, we tried portofino, the Italian restaurant and for the first time, had to wait for a table for 45 minutes, and so checked out a mediocre Mother’s Day buffet, that had some incredible opera singers to serenade us.

Overall, the food was hit and miss. Quality varied, but the service has been excellent. Not having reservations for dining is nice, as we can decide what we are in the mood for, but they don’t always know how to manage lines. The room has been a highlight, as it is very big, well maintained, and quiet. Just be careful not to leave the do not disturb button on, or else your room won’t be cleaned!

A highlight was our day trip to Isla Mujeres, where we took the locals ferry to get there, rented a golf cart, drove around the island, swam with some locals in a hidden area between some rocks and bought some local jewelry.

A full review of the hotel and the island will follow after the trip with more dos and don’ts. And while this place was nice, we are excited for El Dorado tomorrow!!

Avoid airline baggage fees: 9 tips for packing light

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/avoid-airline-baggage-fees-9-tips-for-packing-light-1.2768062

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