Pastéis de Belém: Welcome to Lisbon’s Famous Tart Cafe

Pastéis de Belém: Welcome to Lisbon’s Famous Tart Cafe

Slightly crispy on the outside with a semi-sweet creamy inside, it’s no wonder pastéis de nata are Lisbon’s favorite pastries. Although cafés across the city boast their natas as the best, a truly unique experience will be found at Pastéis de Belém. What makes theirs so different?

I love experiencing the native cuisine of any country or culture I visit. Lisbon promises to offer me lots of food I’ve never had before and/or in ways I’ve never had it.

Until I watched this video and read this article, I thought all pastéis de nata (the traditional egg custard) was the same but, it turns out, the world famous Pastéis de Belém is significantly different. The cafe is located near the Jerónimos Monastery so it will make for a great location for breakfast one morning we’re in Lisbon!
Pasteis de belem

More “For You” videos – Our Australian Wedding!

I posted the “Portraits of Melissa” a couple of days ago and here is the video the iOS 12 “For You” feature came up with for our wedding last December in Australia. I made a few tweaks to this one but it’s still damn good right out of the device.

More “For You” Videos – Our Australian Wedding! (portrait version)

More “For You” Videos – Our Australian Wedding! (landscape version)

History of Fado

I am mesmerized by Fado. I’d never heard of the music style until I started researching this Lisbon trip. The contrast of the vibrancy of Lisbon – with its sunshine, beautiful tiles, and magnificent, expansive views – to the melancholy of Fado is fascinating. I can’t wait to hear it in a small, dim pub in Lisbon!

History of Fado:
Attempting to explain fado is pointless. Those who have tried, have tangled themselves up in contradictory references and dates and lost the trail completely. Some say its origins lie in the songs of the Moors, the people who founded the Mouraria quarter in Lisbon after the Christian reconquest. Others believe that it replaced the medieval chanson de geste, while others speculate whether it evolved out of modinha, a popular form of song in the 18th and 19th centuries and the result of a fusion with Angolan lundu.

But does its origin really matter? Why, if its mystique is so appealing? Listen to it, and preferably in its local habitat, the streets of Lisbon’s traditional quarters, and lose yourself in the improvised guitar playing. That’s how you find it.


If You Don’t Own a 50mm Prime Lens, Go and Spend $50 Right Now

I own five lenses for my Nikon D600 and another five for my Olympus M1, covering a wide range but I enjoy the challenges of shooting with the lovely little Nikon 50mm more than all of the others. If you don’t have a Nifty Fifty”, do yourself a favour and pick one up and play around with it. And, if you’re coming with us to Lisbon next March, you definitely want to bring one with you!

If You Don’t Own a 50mm Prime Lens, Go and Spend $50 Right Now
Why would anyone spend $50 on a lens that’s almost certain to be soft, noisy, and slow to focus? Let me tell you: because it’s awesome. If you’re new to photography, have a tiny budget, or have never owned a prime lens and want to see what the fuss is about, this is where to start.

11 Incredible Things to Do in Lisbon that are totally Hassle Free

Lisbon is a relatively small city (population a little over 500,000) but, because of its history and culture, there is so much to see and do in a compact space. The more research I do, the more excited I get about the possibilities, both as a photographer and a traveler.

11 Incredible Things to Do in Lisbon that are totally Hassle Free

I have come up with a list of eleven incredible things to do in Lisbon that are totally hassle free and can be planned in advanced and enjoyed even by those that have limited time in the city.

I guarantee we’ll be doing at least half of these things on our trip in March!

“Portraits of Melissa”

I never used “Moments” from the iOS Photos app but, under iOS 12, “For You” pops up with these little videos now and again. I’m fairly impressed. Without me having named any of the pics or videos, the phone has identified my lovely wife and created this little video of her.

Watch the video all the way through. I included both the portrait and landscape orientations that Apple created. What I find really interesting is that it looks different and has a different “tone” and feel in landscape vs portrait mode. Landscape includes people and things to either side of Melissa that take the focus off of her.

The differences are especially notable in the last shot – in landscape mode, you can’t see the lower half of Melissa and can’t see she has a beer in her hand. 🙂

It’s also interesting that the software was “smart” enough to know to group all of our wedding shots together – the last 15 seconds of each segment are from our wedding in Australia last December.

PS: I had to edit some of the photos out because Melissa has “final cut” and she didn’t approve of some of my shots. 🙂

Our hotel in Lisbon!

Thanks to Rui of the Reservations Department at the Tesouro da Baixa Boutique Guesthouse in Lisbon, we can now announce we’ve got a hotel base for our “photo tourism workshop” in Lisbon, Portugal!

(I love those lamps on the ceiling!)

One of the issues I’ve had finding a suitable location is the European habit of offering non-refundable rates. The Tesouro da Baixa is offering us their great non-refundable rates but with a very flexible cancellation policy!

The other thing that was important to me was that whatever hotel we chose was centrally located and the Tesouro da Baixa is definitely that. It’s only a 5 minute walk from the Santa Justa Lift, less than ten minutes from the Convento do Carmo and 15 minutes away from the Castelo de S. Jorge, among other attractions including over a dozen bars and restaurants within a couple of blocks!

Here’s how to take advantage of this great offer.

1) Go to this URL. If the language is Portugese, click on the UK flag at the top of the page to switch to English.

2) Choose your arrival date and the number of nights stay (workshop will be from March 23rd to March 30th, 2019).

3) In the “Choose the desired city” field, choose “Lisbon”.

4) In the “Choose the desired house” field, choose “Tesouro da Baixa – Lisbon”.

It will look like this:

5) Pick your room. Make sure it is one of the cheaper “Early Booking SPECIAL DISCOUNT – Non-Refundable” rooms. NOTE: ALL PRICES ARE IN EUROS. For reference, 100.00 Euros is approximately $116.00 US dollars.

6) Under each room description, you’ll see “Rooms”. Pick “1” and then the number of adults – prices are a little cheaper for just one adult in a room!

The hotel says:

Guests can choose the non-refundable rate to benefit from 10 % discount, with the following conditions:

A deposit of 20% and a credit card as a guarantee will be required upon booking and is refundable up to 30 days before arrival in case of cancellation;

The remaining 80% should be paid 7 days before arrival. There are no refunds after this.

In the comments’ section on our booking page, after filling in the details, guests should declare they are attending your workshop.

THIS LAST PART IS IMPORTANT. In order to be eligible for the 30 day cancellation policy, YOU MUST put Attending the Starting Point Photography Workshop in the comments section. That way, the hotel knows you are eligible for this special deal. You should also send me an email confirming your reservation for my records in case there are any issues going forward.

I hope you’ll agree this is a lovely hotel, a great location in a beautiful city, and a wonderful deal for our attendees. We are going to have a blast in Lisbon and you are going to learn a lot about photography and have fun doing it!

SEE YOU IN LISBON!

How One Earthquake Changed the Course of Human History

I’m really looking forward to exploring more of Lisbon’s incredible history.

How One Earthquake Changed the Course of Human History:

At its height, the Portuguese empire spanned four continents, with territory everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Macau. The first global empire, Portugal’s mastery of the seas began in earnest in the 1400s, when the relatively small and isolated country sought to find new trade routes with Europe and the rest of the world. Its first major success came in 1488, when Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias rounded the southern tip of Africa. Ten years later, Vasco da Gama reached India. The ensuing centuries would witness Portuguese navigators establishing relations and trade with countries as far as Japan.

By the middle of the 18th century, Portugal’s capital of Lisbon was the fifth-most populous city in Europe, its port the third-busiest. It was one of, if not the, wealthiest cities in the world. It might still be, as Mark Molesky reveals in This Gulf of Fire: The Destruction of Lisbon, or Apocalypse in the Age of Science and Reason, if not for an unspeakable catastrophe in 1755 that would leave the city leveled, the empire crippled, and the course of Western civilization forever altered.

Why Lisbon?

I got an interesting email from someone that basically asked, “Why Lisbon? Why do this photography thing in Lisbon?”

Good question. There are several answers to the question but, primarily, it’s about light.

As I teach in my classes, photography is “capturing a moment in the life of light”. We don’t take pictures of dark – we take pictures of light. So, it makes sense to find scenes and images with great light. And there’s no doubt, the light in Lisbon is somehow magical.

Another reason is cost. Everyone who talks about Lisbon talks about how inexpensive it is. The joke is that, in Lisbon, “beer and wine are cheaper than bottled water”. It’s also a very historic city. I’m a big fan of European history and Lisbon is full of it.


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“Photo Tourism” in Lisbon, Portugal, March 23rd-30th, 2019

We are staying at the Tesouro da Baixa Boutique Guesthouse in Lisbon!

TICKETS FOR THIS EVENT ARE AVAILABLE NOW! REMEMBER – THE FEE IS FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHY SESSIONS ONLY.

AIR FARE AND HOTEL FEES ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. 

This is a workshop I call “Photo Tourism”. The idea is to go on the vacation you are already going on but go with a professional photographer (that would be me!) and learn how to take better photos as well.

We all carry a camera around with us – whether it’s on our phones or a dedicated device. But many people don’t know what makes for a good/great photo. They just click away and “hope it comes out”.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could go some place and have a professional instructor teach you how to take good pictures and be at your beck and call to help you capture the shots you see – no matter what kind of camera you have?

Wouldn’t it be great to come back from vacation and have people actually *want* to see your vacation photos? Or to have images you can proudly have printed out and displayed on your walls or to give as gifts to family and friends?

Wouldn’t it be great to go to a beautiful place and learn, not only how to take pictures of that place, but to gain knowledge that will help you with every photo you take afterwards?

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Australia!

Melissa and I (and Rory and Jasper!) were in Australia (Newcastle and Sydney) for most of December. We got (re)married and I got to meet some of her *amazing* family!

Click the image above to see the gallery on Flickr.

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

If you’re new to photography, you’re likely wondering how to post-process or edit your photos. There is a wide selection of photo editing software to choose from, but the two that you probably hear debated the most are Adobe Photoshop versus Lightroom. So what are the main differences and which program is best for beginners and for you? Read on for a basic overview!

I get this question all the time. My go-to answer is to tell students that Photoshop is a “pixel editor” while Lightroom is an “image editor”. I also tell them that, if you’re comfortable working in Photoshop, go ahead and edit in Photoshop. But, if you’re not, Lightroom has less of a learning curve and is an app dedicated to and for photographers.

But keep in mind, these are not the only two apps you can use to edit your images. Photos for Mac is free as is Snapheel for iOS and Android devices. I’m also testing for review the recently demoed at WWDC Serif Jabs’ Affinity Photo for the iPad.

After the Shoot!

I had a couple of people at Sunday’s Aperture Priority Shoot ask what I do after I get the images home. So I thought I’d write up the general process I use. This is not hard and fast or the “only” way to do things. It just happens to be the process I’ve developed. Feel free to adjust to your particular situation.

The first thing I do when I get home is to get the images *off* my camera. You never know when the camera card may go bad or your camera gets lost, stolen, damaged, etc. I put all the images into a folder on the desktop of my Mac. In my case, the folder will have the date of the images and a word or two about where the shoot was. So, for this particular shoot, my folder is called “170312_Bloedel”.

The next thing I do is back *that* folder up to an external drive just in case something happens to my computer or I delete or screw up working on an image. Now I have three backups of the original 325 images – camera card, computer desktop, and external HD.

Next comes the (brutal) “Culling of the Images”. It’s ugly but it needs to be done. 🙂

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is my image editor of choice. I important all the shots into a new catalog with the same name as the desktop folder – 170312_Bloedel. I then open the first image with my finger hovering over the “X” key – that’s the delete button.

Generally, unless you are a truly incredible photographer, at least half of your images will…..let’s just say….”not be good”. Delete those immediately. DO NOT think, “Oh, maybe I’ll come back to it” or ”maybe I’ll fix it later”. Trust me – YOU WON’T. If it’s not an appealing shot at first glance – if it’s poorly composed, out of focus, or just a “bad” photo – delete it right now. Don’t get attached to it.

BUT…

Make a mental note of *why* the photo isn’t a keeper. Maybe all your shots are blurry or from too far away or have some other issue. Learn from your bad photos the reasons why they are bad photos. Then delete them.

At my first culling pass, I went from 325 images down to 125. In Lightroom, I delete those photos, not just from the catalog but from the hard drive. Poof – they’re gone (but remember, I’ve still got two full backups of them). Then I walk away from the computer for a while – usually in a depression about how many crappy photos I’ve taken!

I come back to the Lightroom catalog for the second cull. This time, I’m looking at the images more critically. Is it in focus (I zoom in to make sure)? Does it “tell a story”? Is it a pleasing image? Is it properly composed, showing what I want to show? How much work will I have to do to “fix” it? After the second pass, I was down to only 25 images. I again delete the “bad” photos not just from the catalog but from the hard drive.

(Here’s where I am (probably) different from most of you. As a “professional photographer”, I want to “show off” my images to others, usually because I want them to hire me. 🙂 So I can’t “afford” to post bad photos. I need and want to show off only my very best efforts. So I tend to be hyper-critical of my shots and delete anything that doesn’t meet my (hopefully) high standards.)

Now that I’m down to a more manageable 25 photos to edit, I go through them a third time to see what processing I need to do to make them “perfect”. If I have to spend too much time (and the photos are just for me, not a client), then I delete the photo. I define “too much time” as anything more than a couple of minutes. If they are for a client, I’ll work extra hard to get what the client is looking for.

After all of this (lasting about 45 minutes, not including the break between the first and second cull), I was left with……eight photos.

That doesn’t sound like a lot but, looking at them, they are a good representation of what I was looking for on the shoot. So I’m OK with such a low “success” rate.

Finally, I go to my backups. I replace the backup on the external HD with the folder from the desktop. That way, I know the only images on the external HD are of the eight “good ones” from Lightroom. I also export the edited images out of Lightroom – one set for the web (so they are small resolution) and one high resolution set – both are exported to a folder inside the “170312_Bloedel” and named “170312_Bloedel_LowRez” and “170312_Bloedel_HighRez”.

I then upload both the sets to Flickr so I have another backup – but this time, in the cloud that, in theory, I can access any time, anywhere I’d like.

Last but not least, I then reformat the camera’s memory card to delete all of the original images and start the next shoot with a “fresh” card.

So, I start with 10GBs and 325 photos that get cut down to a little over 1GB and eight photos.

I hope this helps some of you and, as always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment here or send me an email at shawn@StartingPointPhotography.com.

Keep shooting!

Reasons why you should love a cheap kit lens

Some reasons why you should love a cheap kit lens:

When you bought your first DSLR, you probably got it with a kit lens. These lenses are cheap, and not really top-notch quality. If you bought a prime or a high-end zoom later, you know a kit lens can’t beat it. However, there are still some reasons to use a kit lens. They may not always be the best choice, but they certainly have their purpose.

I tell my students to NOT buy a new lens when they buy their first, beginner DSLR. There’s no point. The kit lens is “good enough” for beginners until they learn how to use the camera and create great images with it. Only once you know what kind of photographer you are should you start looking to buy replacement lenses.