Epic Photo Location: The Banaue Rice Terraces

Of all the places in the Philippines, I think it was Banaue that I was most looking forward to. The images of the landscapes and rice terraces are all over the social media and marketing for The Philippines. I couldn’t wait to get my lens on them, and head out and explore them as well. But, as the jeepney I caught from Sagada rolled towards town it poured rain. At times, I’m sure the driver couldn’t see more than 10 meters in front of him because of the fog. But, somehow the ride was still a lot of fun. I should have known it would be a bit of foreshadowing for my next couple days in Banaue. The forecast was showers, with a chance of occasional brilliance. Wandering the Villages around Banaue With heavy fog in the air my first morning in Banaue, I slept in a little bit. Later in the morning, I headed out to do a village trek in the area. I started with a visit to a village called Tam-an. Just outside of Banaue, this little village is perched on a hill’s edge with incredible views of the valley. I stopped there, pulled out the drone, and took a flight to get an overview of the area. It was fun, not only because the views were beautiful, but because the drone served as such a nice ice-breaker into conversations with the locals. They all came out to chat. Then, I pushed on towards the village of Poitan. However, I managed to get totally lost on the way there and found myself wandering aimlessly through some rice terraces. By the time I found the trail down to Poitan, I was covered in mud all the way to my waist. Again, the hike down to Poitan was stunning. It cut across some rice terraces, but also carved along the cliff-side lending to some beautiful views of the area. By the afternoon, the rain rolled back in and cut into my dreams of shooting photos from the classic view of the rice terraces. No Batad, Bad Brendan! I had plans of catching a ride out to an area called Batad. The terraces out that way are meant to be the most beautiful in all The Philippines. However, it poured rain the whole day. And, if I’m being honest with you, I probably should have just fought through it anyways. Of course, the weather could have been better that way – although, to be fair to myself, it probably wasn’t. I hiked up to the viewpoint for sunrise, but struck out. Then, in the afternoon, I hiked up again...

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Some Days in Barcelona
Feb13

Some Days in Barcelona

With less than a week left in Spain, I was kind of left with a choice. I could head to Granada and Ronda and try to shoot both locations, or I could go to Barcelona and take things a little bit easier. And while I’d been to Barcelona before, and both Granada and Ronda are places I’ve been wanting to photograph for ages, with a busy travel schedule coming up in The Philippines soon, it didn’t make much sense for me to race all over southern Spain for a couple days. So, I headed to Barcelona. Location Scouting in Barcelona I’ve been to Barcelona before. But, it’s been over 5 years since the last time I was there. So, I wanted to spend a day to just wander around and get situated a bit. I also wanted to location scout a couple spots that I had been thinking might make for good photo spots. But, in classic Brendan-style, I was a little bit ambitious. My plan was to scout 4 different locations in Barcelona: Sagrada Familia Arch de Triumpf Plaza de Catalunya Plaza de las Cascadas The total location scout would cover a walk of over 7km, one-way. And, I only gave myself about an hour and a half to do it all. Like I said: ambitious. And while I did get way behind on my schedule to explore as well as shoot video footage, it was a nice walk around. In the vlog from the day, I also talk a lot about the business side of my job. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But, I think it’s important to relay to people that my job is about more than just going out and taking pictures in cool locations. It’s about more than just exploration and adventure – it’s a job. And, like any job there are parts of the business that you’d rather avoid. I spent about 8 hours on this day in Barcelona trying to arrange meetings at a conference I have in March in Berlin. Honestly, my eyes nearly fell out of my head after spending that much time staring blankly into my laptop. Photography at Sagrada Familia Is there a more interesting building in Europe? Basilica Sagrada Familia is just stunning. And, while most people might find themselves a little bit annoyed with the constant presence of cranes and scaffolding, I think it kind of lends to its charm. It seems like the building might never be completed, and that’s kind of part of the fun. On my second day in Barcelona, I spent the entire...

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Meet the Intern
Feb06

Meet the Intern

After spending a couple pretty chilled out days in Valencia getting caught up on work and taking some time to relax, I headed to the city of Alicante.  The reason for my visit to Alicante is that I finally decided on an intern/assistant to work with me on certain projects, and he’s based in the city.  We’re not really planning a project to do together until April, but since we were both in Spain at the same time it made a lot of sense for me to drop in and say hi and do some planning together. Cheap Tapas in Alicante What a better way to get to know someone than over cheap tapas and beer?  Greg (check out his YouTube Channel) and his girlfriend Nellie took me out to a local spot called d’tablas which must be the best cheap tapas in Alicante.  The prices are ridiculous. A beer is 60 cents, and the tapas are 90 cents.  Essentially a beer and a tapa is a buck-fifty. I love the tapas culture in Spain.  I’m the type of person that would rather sample a dozen different things at dinner than have one giant plate of the same thing.  It just works for me. Q&A with Greg Snell My second day in Alicante, we basically took a work day.  But, we also headed up to the castle around sunset. Since I want you guys to get to know Greg a little bit, I ran through some “lightning round” Q&A questions for him.  We talked about everything from gear to travel.  I’ll do another full-on Q&A with Greg once we get down to Patagonia in April. After the Q&A we stayed up at the castle for sunset.  The light was insane.  The location was cool too, there was plenty to shoot in a small little area, so I ended up with a couple cool photos of Alicante I really like. The city is bigger than I was expecting, but it’s cool.  And, it seems like a pretty decent place to be based in Spain. What’s Next? I’ve got less than a week left here in Spain before I’m off on an adventure to The Philippines.  I’m so excited about that trip that it’s actually been a little bit hard for me to concentrate on work and shooting Spain.  It’s not that I’m not loving Spain, I am, I’ve just never been to The Philippines before – and haven’t even spent a lot of time in Asia – so I’m looking forward to the change.  I do, however, still have time here and will be hanging out and shooting some images...

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Getting Settled in Spain
Jan26

Getting Settled in Spain

I’ve said it a couple times over the past few blog entries, but the theme of 2017 is home. Or, at least the idea of starting to look at options for a future home.  Spain has always been the obvious location for me to start to put down some roots.  It’s centrally located, I speak the language, I like the lifestyle, and it’s fairly affordable to live in as well. However, logistically, it doesn’t make a lot of sense this year.  I have projects in Argentina, Peru, and Iceland already sorted out for this year.  And, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be jumping back and forth across the Atlantic when flight prices are so high.  But, I still kind of want to explore the idea of Spain as a future home.  So, I have given myself nearly a month to wander around Spain looking at different towns and getting a feel for what it would be like to live there. The first place I’ll be checking out is Madrid. Welcome to Madrid! After about a week of full on travel that had me jumping from Medellin, to Las Vegas, to Los Angeles, to London, and finally to Madrid, I was exhausted.  I was also extremely jet-lagged. The truth is, I wasn’t going to go out and explore or shoot photos, or do anything on my first day in Madrid.  But, I got the feeling that if I stayed tucked away in my hotel room all day I’d have a harder time getting over the jet-lag.  So, I made the most of my first day in the city.  I got out and had a really nice lunch off of a set menu.  It’s so nice to be back in Europe where you have the option of eating street-side and watching the world go by.  Then, in the afternoon I wandered around town doing some location scouting and shooting a little video. Some Photography of Madrid Day 2 in Madrid, I wanted to get out and do some shooting.  So, after taking care of some chores in the morning, I wandered out into the streets of the city to do some photography.  I hit a lot of the same places I scouted the day before.  And, for a little while I got some really fantastic light. Honestly, I somehow remember the last time I was in Madrid I had a hard time finding photography locations that I liked.  This time in the city, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of different locations there are to shoot.  In one afternoon – or, really, in just a couple hours –...

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Getting to Spain
Jan24

Getting to Spain

My trip down to Colombia was so necessary.  But, it also created a whole set of logistical challenges, and an array of travel diversions.  I had already bought tickets to Spain from Los Angeles, so it meant flying back to the US for a couple days.  Of course, if you know me, and you’ve been following my life long enough, you know that I didn’t take the easy way back to the US either.  It was a mission.  These are the travel diaries from my journey from Colombia to Spain – the long way, as usual. Winning Big on a Layover in Las Vegas My flight back to Los Angeles was set to a miserable schedule.  I booked a flight through Copa Airlines that had 2, 10+ hour layovers just to save $400.  The first layover was spent in Panama City where I didn’t leave the airport and instead just sat in the business class lounge all day doing work. By the time I got to my second layover, in Las Vegas, I was stir crazy from all the time sat in airplanes and airports.  And while I didn’t really feel like going out into the streets of Vegas in the middle of the night, with a 10+ hour layover there, I decided to head out and shoot some night photography. I wandered along the strip of Las Vegas for a couple hours getting some shots.  But, it was cold and I wasn’t dressed or prepared for the cold.  So, I decided that I’d head into one of the casinos and chuck down $80 to play until the money ran out, or I warmed up; whichever came first.  Somehow, though, within about 30 minutes I managed to turn that $80 into $200.  I decided to walk away from the table.  But, when realizing that I still have about 7 hours to kill, I put my initial $80 investment into my pocket, and decided to gamble away with the $120 I earned.  Within about 90 minutes, that $120 became $2320.  And, after losing two hands of blackjack betting $100 a piece, I decided to call it quits with a night’s profit of over $2000.  I’m still a little in shock that it happened.  I always seem to hang on for a while playing blackjack, as I play the odds.  Sometimes I win a little, but never do I turn out a profit like that.  I’m still amazed. I only gamble about once every 3 years, and it was fun.  But, believe me when I say that I won’t be changing my career from professional travel photographer to professional blackjack player....

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Travel Diaries: Colombia
Jan18

Travel Diaries: Colombia

There’s this funny thing that happens to you when you travel the world. At first, you start to feel like you don’t really belong anywhere. You feel like you’re searching for your home, but can’t seem to find it. Then, after a while, you start to realize that there are a dozen of different places pulling you in each direction. When you travel so much, different destination, people, and experiences that you know, and are comfortable with, start to make you feel like you want to be in 10 different places at once. Before heading to Colombia, I felt that way. And, honestly, that feeling beat me up a bit. Obviously, I couldn’t be everywhere at once. Obviously, I couldn’t be with all the people I wanted to be with at once; not when they’re scattered all over the globe. I’m a believer that you have to listen to the signals that your mind gives you. You have to give in to the ideas that spring to life in your conscious.  And for whatever reason, it felt like the energies of the world were all pulling me back to South America. In the end, I decided I needed to make a trip down to Medellin. I needed to see if I still had the same love for Medellin I had back when I was living there. And, so on a bit of a whim, I booked a flight to Colombia. A Colombian Road Trip I landed in Medellin after a sleep-free night flying from Phoenix via LAX and Panama City. As soon as I got there, I rolled over to the family finca (country home) of an old friend. There, we sprung plans to head out on a road trip. Because, you know, sleep is over-rated when you can drive across a country. So, we drove through the night to the city of Pereira. The next day, we drove out to Salento and the Valle de Cocora – both places I’ve been before. With no desperate need to take photos, I kind of just enjoyed spending time with friends and not worrying about getting shots. It’s kind of nice to be a tourist every now and then. I need to remember to do that more often. It reminds be that travel is about more than just getting some shots. That night, we went out on the town. And, yeah, we kind of over-did it. We woke up complete disasters. But, we had a long drive ahead of us back to Medellin. On the way, we stopped at some hot springs in Santa Rosa de Cabral. It was actually the perfect...

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