31 December 2011

Review: EIZO ColorEdge CG245W


My first serious computer monitor was a LaCie Electron Blue IV, an incredibly heavy, blue beast. It served me well for many years, until recently. It can no longer reach the desired brightness, so I had to start looking for an alternative.

At the time when I bought the massive LaCie CRT screen, it was one of the best monitors around. It certainly wasn't the cool way to go - that would have been the flat screens - but if you wanted to see true, solid blacks instead of mere dark grays, a CRT screen was your only option. LCD monitors were regarded as lacking the color accuracy required for photography professionals, and if you wanted to get true black and high contrast, an old school CRT monitor it was.

My old set up with the LaCie ElectronBlue IV. The device on the left is my DroboPro.














If you care about your images, you need to care about your monitor. All too often I hear about photographers that spend thousands of dollars on cameras and lenses, and almost like an afterthought, they buy a third rate display that isn't capable of correctly showing the images they've captured.

If you want to fully appreciate all the colors and tones of your images, you need a good monitor, just like you need a good camera and good lenses.

But that's not all. If you want to make sure that what you see on your screen is actually how things are supposed to look, and how others will see your images, you also need to calibrate your screen. If you're working on an uncalibrated screen, your digital image won't reproduce faithfully in print, and they'll also look different when viewed on other displays.

From early on I've always been aware of the importance of a calibrated monitor, so I bought the best hardware calibration device available at that time: the i1 Monitor by Gretach-Macbeth (now discontinued). It performed flawlessly, although the whole procedure was always a bit tedious as it involved attaching the device to the center of the screen with a suction cup, and fiddling around with the buttons on the display itself. After 15 minutes or so the calibration process was finished, and it's always a reassuring feeling knowing that what you're seeing on your screen is exactly what you're supposed to see.

Over the years, things have changed considerably. LCD monitors have become the mainstream choice for photographers worldwide, and CRT displays are a thing of the past. But with so many manufacturers and so many different screens - what is the right choice?


Making the right choice

There are basically three kinds of LCD panels: TN, VA and IPS.

VA stands for Vertical Alignment, TN stands for Twisted Nematic, while IPS stands for In-Plane Switching. I won't start speaking super technically here, but these technologies handle the way the liquid crystals move differently, resulting in different performance. Probably the biggest difference between the three, from the buyer’s perspective, is the price. TN displays are much cheaper compared to VA and IPS displays. Part of the reason of the higher price is the doubling of the number of transistors per pixel in displays, which uses two transistors.

If price is not an issue, then VA and IPS are the sure winners. VA and IPS displays do not suffer from color limitation problems, while many TN panels have limited color depth like 6-bit. To achieve better color reproduction, TN displays for instance use frame rate control and dithering but this can affect the sharpness of the image. VA and IPS displays can recreate a wider variation of colors without the use of dithering and is generally the desired technology for people who extensively work with digital imaging.

Another difference is the viewing angle. IPS displays have a very wide viewing angle and you can view the display from a very slanted angle while the image still retains its colors and you can still make out the figures on the screen. VA and TN displays, when viewed at an angle, begin to suffer from loss of color. The image becomes washed out, as if you are viewing the image through thick smoke. Furthermore, IPS technology is more energy efficient and environmental friendly. For me the choice was obvious: IPS.


The EIZO ColorEdge CG245W

After doing some serious research, I ended up choosing the EIZO ColorEdge CG245W.

EIZO? Who are EIZO?

Back in 2003 the EIZO ColorEdge series was the world’s first line of LCD monitors specifically targeted at graphics professionals. One year later, EIZO introduced the world’s first LCD monitor capable of reproducing the Adobe RGB color space. The image quality, long-term reliability, and innovative features of EIZO monitors have made them the products of choice for many photography professionals throughout the world.

While outsourcing production is now common practice in the monitor industry, EIZO continues to manufacture its products the same way it has throughout its over 40 year history — with its own staff at its own factories. This allows EIZO to keep close control over production quality and offer the industry’s only 5-year manufacturer’s limited warranty.

If you say color accuracy, you say EIZO.

The ColorEdge CG245W is a 24.1" (61 cm) LCD display, using a 1920x1200 IPS widescreen panel. It is also the world's first self-calibrating monitor - nice! I wanted a screen slightly larger than my old CRT, while still being able to keep my second monitor next to it for all my Photoshop palettes. I know, with a larger screen you can keep all your palettes neatly organized on the side, but I prefer to keep my main monitor as clean as possible.



Unpacking

The first thing I noticed when the box was delivered, was the weight. Moving my old CRT screen took half a football team, but this box was anything but heavy.

The box. No need to call your chiropractor.


Opening the main container you have a long, flat box containing the instructions, a disc with the manual and software and the sections of the shading hood (for shielding the display from stray light and keeping image color consistent) for either horizontal or vertical monitor setup. A monitor cleaning kit is also included.

Getting the display out of the box was easy. The display itself was neatly wrapped in protective material.

Protective wrapper against damage during transportation.


Connecting the screen to my MacPro was as simple as any other device. Plug in the power cord and connect the USB cable to the computer, and voila. It was nice to see that when I turned on the computer, my desktop was immediately shown full screen, exactly filling the entire screen from edge to edge. With the LaCie this was definitely not the case and I had to spend quite some time fiddling with small buttons to adjust the screen before it would finally fill the entire space available.

And boy, does this screen look good!


The Screen

The design is simple, just the way I like it. There is a small border around the screen that houses the calibration device in the top bezel, while the bottom bezel features some small backlit menu buttons. You can dim these buttons if you prefer not to see them.

Simple and elegant design. If you like jigsaw puzzles, then you'll love assembling the hood.
The calibration device is shown in the active position here.


I ended up not using the supplied hood, because my whole set up is in a corner of my room, with no stray light coming from either side. Also, it would block part of the view of my secondary monitor, which I use for my palettes.

Backlit buttons at the bottom of the screen have 7 brightness levels and an off function.







Another nice feature that I was not used to, is the ability to adjust the height of the screen via the monitor’s “FlexStand”. The bearing-less design of the FlexStand requires very little force to make height adjustments.

The ColorEdge CG245W comes with a FlexStand that offers tilt, swivel, 
90° rotation for portrait mode viewing, and height adjustment.

At the back of the screen there are two DVI-I inputs that accept both digital and analogue signals, and a single DisplayPort (digital) input. DisplayPort is your best choice if you want to make use of the 10-bit simultaneous display.* In 10-bit more than 1 billion colors are shown simultaneously, which is a whopping 64 times greater than the 16.7 million colors of a 8-bit display, and gives you much smoother color gradations. DisplayPort transmits both video and audio signals.

*Note: A graphics board and software that support 10-bit output are also necessary for 10-bit display.

On the upper left of the monitor you can find two USB 2.0 ports. I mainly use these for quick access to USB sticks and my travel backup drives.

Most of the screens you see today are of the glossy kind - both my MacBook Pro and my iPhone feature these glossy screens. They're great for vivid colors and rich black tones with high contrast ratios, but they also suffer from an incredible amount of reflections. I'm therefore happy that the ColorEdge CG245W uses a non-glare LCD. It shows 98% of the Adobe RGB (1998) color space, perfect for imaging professionals, and it has an excellent viewing angle.

You can tell that EIZO takes color accuracy very seriously indeed. Each unit is calibrated individually at their factory, and they include an Adjustment Certificate, Setup Guide and Quick Reference document with each monitor.

The Adjustment Certificate (Uniformity Data Sheet) that was taped to my monitor.

Software

The included EIZO Utility Disk contains a couple of software applications. Most important are the ColorNavigator Agent and ColorNavigator.

The ColorNavigator Agent is simply an icon in your dock that changes from blue to red when the number of hours between calibrations that you have specified has passed. By right clicking on the icon you can choose directly from any of your saved profiles.

To actually calibrate the monitor, you have to use the ColorNavigator software.

I previously used the Eye-One Match software, and although that was very easy to work with, ColorNavigator proved even simpler.


Calibration

The ColorEdge CG245W features a unique built-in calibration sensor that is housed in the top bezel of the monitor. This sensor is about the size of a USB stick, and it swings down over the center top of the screen when calibration starts. No need for third-party calibration devices anymore, it's all included with the ColorEdge CG245W.

When starting the calibration procedure, the built-in calibration device swings down.


The ColorNavigator software makes calibration a real breeze. When you open ColorNavigator, a window appears asking you to select the calibrating device. The built-in calibrator is simply called 'Built-In' and it appears as the default choice.

After hitting ok, the second window appears. When opening the software for the first time, you have two choices: a profile for photography and graphic design, and a profile for printing. Choose one and click next.

Apart from using the two factory profiles, you can also add your own profiles. 
I fine-tuned the photography profile by increasing the brightness level to 100cd/m2, 
and I created an sRGB profile.


The third screen offers some last minute reminders before the calibration process starts. Hit proceed and calibration begins.



The whole process took only a couple of minutes. At the end of the procedure another window appears, showing the results of your calibration. Simply save the profile, and that's it. Your new ICC profile is instantly integrated into a ColorSync managed workflow. It really couldn't be any simpler.

Or could it?

Well, one of the really cool things this monitor can do, is self-calibration. By using the OSD menu, you can schedule the ColorEdge CG245W to self-calibrate at a specific time and at specific intervals. You can even schedule the calibration to happen during the night, when your computer is shut down and you're vast asleep - pretty cool!


Conclusion

The EIZO ColorEdge CG245W is a high-end monitor for imaging professionals and all people that take color seriously. The design is great, installation and operation is simple, the screen is razor sharp and evenly lit, colors look stunning, and the calibration couldn't be easier. No cons then? A few. This monitor isn't cheap, but you get what you pay for. The User’s Manual could be improved and at times the writing is confusing. I tried the Dutch version for a minute, but that didn’t help either. Luckily, you don't really need the manual to get things to work. Once you get it to work, the calibration process works exactly the way that I described above. Fast and simple.

My final nit is a peculiar one. I noticed there is a difference between how my images look in a color-profiled environment such as Photoshop and Lightroom, and an environment that doesn't use color profiles, such as internet browsers. When preparing images for the web, I always convert them to sRGB to compensate for the fact that web browsers don't display Adobe RGB very well. The conversion to sRGB usually does the trick. On this monitor however my images look exactly how they should in a color profile environment, but they look warmer and more saturated in web browsers etc. I have contacted EIZO about this, and apparently this is the result of the monitor simply being too good - it shows much more color information than the average monitor.

I would never have thought that you can have a monitor that is too good, and I must admit that it is somewhat annoying. As a work around I have created another profile in ColorNavigator: sRGB. When viewing images outside of my color profile environment, I switch to the sRGB profile using the ColorNavigator Agent.

My new set up with the EIZO ColorEdge CG245W.

As a professional photographer though, the thing that counts more than anything else is quality. The ColorEdge CG245W is an excellent screen and it makes working on my images a real joy. Add to that the ease of use and the self-calibration, and it's clear I made the right choice.

14 December 2011

Moon Death

Deadvlei in Namibia is without a doubt one of the most surreal places on this planet, and arguably one of the most photogenic. No wonder so many landscape photographers want to visit this amazing location. As we visit Namibia every year, each time it gets more difficult for me to create truly original images of this popular spot. And that is good, because it forces me to think beyond the obvious and search for angles and lighting conditions that I haven't seen before - and believe me, I've seen them all. :-)

As almost all Deadvlei images you see are taken with sunlight, I decided to take a different approach and use the moon. We planned our visit carefully so that I could use the light of the rising moon, about two hours or so after the sun had set. The fact that the ground here is very light really helped to brighten the foreground, often a problem with night photography. Timing is very important because with very little moonlight the landscape gets too dark, shutter speeds too long and the stars become rice-shaped. Too much moon and the sky gets too bright and you won't see any stars - the scene will look like shot in daylight.

To create a better visual hierarchy and a clear focal point, I used a small flashlight to light paint the middle tree - in my opinion the prettiest and the most important one of the three. I really like the way the trees are leaning and how the little silhouetted trees in the background are neatly spread out.


If you would like to join us on our next Namibia Untamed photo workshop and do some spectacular night photography yourself, please have a look on our website for more information, images and tour impression video clips.

11 December 2011

New setup for the Squiver Photo Tour to Alaska in 2012

We have changed the location for our Ultimate Bears photo tour in 2012, taking you to Clark National Park. We no longer have to go through Kodiak and lose valuable days; we can offer you direct flights from Anchorage or Soldotna to Lake Clark.

This amazing trip will bring you extremely close to wild brown bears, as we photograph them in their natural surroundings, with a rugged backdrop of mountains and glaciers, wild rivers and creeks. We will be staying in a very comfortable lodge, booked exclusively for our group. It is located in Lake Clark, in the middle of over four million acres of wilderness. 


We offer you outstanding photographic opportunities to view the earth’s largest carnivore, roaming the wildest and most untouched habitat remaining in the world. The bears have become used to people being in the area, so they totally ignore us while we observe and photograph them. We will photograph them running after salmon, fighting over territory, feeding in the meadows, digging for clams, stealing each others catch, or as they doze, catching their breath before the action starts all over again.

We will take only 8 guests on this trip in September 2012, so don't hesitate and make your reservation now. Please click here to download a PDF with detailed information about this trip. Pictures and a video impression of the tour are available on our website.

08 December 2011

Nikon Pro magazine cover shot

Two of the snow monkey shots that won Marsel the title Nature Photographer of the Year in the US earlier this year, are now featured in the latest edition of Nikon Pro magazine. Marsel's favorite snow monkey image of the series was used on the front cover.


Click here for the original cover image (without type) at a much larger size.

The image that was used on the inside of the magazine is the same one we used in our blog post of 29 September.

01 November 2011

Nature's Best Awards

Arches NP in Utah is probably the most popular place in the world to photograph natural rock arches, but there are many other locations in this spectacular state that are just as interesting and that get much fewer visitors.

On our visit to Utah last year we came across this large hole in a rock face, and at first sight it didn't look very interesting.

When it started raining, we walked around the rock, searching for a place to shelter. When we got to the other side, we saw this huge half dome with the hole in the distance. It was a spectacular sight, but as often with scenes like this, it was hard to get a sense of scale in the photograph.

I asked Daniella to climb up to the window and stand in it, and that made all the difference. After a couple of shots the setting sun briefly peeked between the clouds and colored the rocks near the window deep red.


We are very happy that this image was awarded a Highly Commended at this year's Nature's Best International Photography Awards.

20 October 2011

Marsel successful in Wildlife Photographer of the Year!

We're in London right now, where we attended the Veolia/BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year ceremony. Marsel's photograph 'Moonlight over Aloba' was selected from over 41,000 entries! The image was a Specially Honored winner (3rd Prize) in the Wild Places category.

We already arrived in London the day before yesterday, where Marsel was interviewed for ITV television. Later that day there was a meet and greet with all the other winners at the Natural History Museum.

Marsel had promised himself to never ever wear a tuxedo, but the awards ceremony seemed a good reason to break that promise.



The awarded photograph was shot at night in the Ennedi region in eastern Chad, close to the border with Sudan. We had timed our visit there with a good amount of moonlight to be able to use it as the main light source, while at the same time still be able to see some stars. There is no light pollution in this region (we never even saw another vehicle during our three week expedition), and full moon would have been way too bright.

This natural rock arch is over 120 meters high and one of the prettiest we have ever seen and photographed. It is also one of the most remote large arches in the world. We had to drive through the Sahara for three full days to reach this area, and it was not a pleasant drive. In the end it was all worth it though, because we've been able to photograph places that have never been photographed or even visited before.

This image is available as a Limited Edition print only. If you're interested, please drop us an email.

D3s, AF-S 24-70/2.8, 25s @ f/2.8, ISO 1600

12 October 2011

Presentation at Belgium Digital LITE

On Sunday 16 October Belgium Digital (a online Belgian photo community) organizes their annual get-together with workshops and other informative & interactive sessions. Marsel will give a presentation on wildlife & landscape photography, during one of the morning workshops. Location is the San Marco Village, between Antwerp and Brussels. For more info about Marsels workshop and the event, please visit BelgiumDigitalLite.

29 September 2011

Join us in Japan and get a 400 Euro discount!

If you are interested in going to Japan, this is the time to make the booking. If you fill out the booking form before the end of October, you will get a 400 Euro discount per person on the participation fee!


We have been able to negotiate this special offer through our agent, due to the fact that Western tourists are staying away from Japan. We however feel we should support their economy and the tourism sector. The regions we will be visiting during our tour are far away from the areas that were affected by the Tsunami that hit Japan and the powerplants that ran into trouble because of it. The United Nations has declared Japan to be a safe destination, so safety should not be a reason to stay away. 

Winter is the perfect time to visit Japan. Its breathtaking, snow-covered landscapes are the perfect backdrop for us to photograph Japan’s unique wildlife. During this spectacular trip we will visit the famous snow monkeys, while they enjoy a hot steam bath in volcanic hot springs and play in the snow. We will travel to the northern island of Hokkaido (the Alaska of Japan), where we will photograph rare and beautifulred-crowned cranes while they perform their gracious winter dances, large flocks of whooper swans floating in misty lakes covered with ice and beautiful mountains in the background, and white-tailed and Steller’s sea eagles, as they sit on the pack ice that has drifted over from Siberia.

Download the day-to-day schedule (PDF) and read all about this exciting tour, which starts on 13 February 2012, ending on 25 February 2012.

Be quick and take advantage of the special discount of 400 Euro per person! It is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Fill out the booking form before the end of October to apply for this special offer.

27 September 2011

Interview in Digital Camera Magazine

UK-based magazine Digital Camera now features a 7-page interview with Marsel in their October issue. The editor has selected 11 images to go with the interview.



In the article Marsel talks about how he became a nature photographer, how things changed since the introduction of digital photography, the problems, the preparation, and how he works in the field.

Death Row

This is one of my favorite images from this year's Namibia workshop. Even though I have visited Namibia countless times, it amazes me that it is still possible to find unique compositions, even at a popular and often photographed place as Deadvlei.



The trees you see here are dead camelthorn trees that are hundreds of years old. The extremely arid climate prevents them from rotting and their skeletons turn the location in a very surreal and at times eery place.

For this particular shot I used the shadow of the dunes behind me as a natural ND grad for the bright foreground. I waited until the shadow line reached the base of the dunes in the background and exposed for the bright red sand, turning the already dark trees into silhouettes. I'm kind of allergic to touching and overlapping shapes, and I thought I had already shot every possible angle with free standing trees, but for some reason I suddenly found a lot of new compositions this year that I had never seen before. Just like athletes that have good days and not so good ones, I think the same applies to photographers - one day you're really struggling to get even a decent shot, the next day you suddenly see great images everywhere.

If you would like to join us on next year's Namibia workshop, please have a look at our website for tour information, images and video impressions. It's a spectacular tour with lots of variety, incredible photo opportunities, and you will return with stunning images - and that's a promise!

25 September 2011

Snow monkey in National Geographic

My lighting experiments with the snow monkeys in Japan have become really popular this year. National Geographic (Dutch edition) now features one of my images in their October issue.

>Click here for large version<
 

23 August 2011

Nature Photographer of the Year 2011!

The 2011 International Photography Awards have announced the winners of this year's competition, and we are proud to announce that Marsel won 1st Prize in the Nature/Wildlife category for his series "Japanese Macaques", for which he was also awarded the title Nature Photographer of the Year 2011.

And as if that weren't enough, he also won 2nd Price in the People/Culture category for his series "Libya", and he received a total of 7 Honorable Mentions.

As a main category winner, Marsel will compete for IPA's top award of International Photographer of the Year. The finalists will be invited to attend the Lucie Awards at the Lincoln Center, New York, where one photographer will be announced as the grand winner, earning the coveted Lucie Statue and a cash prize of $10,000. Wish us luck!

The annual International Photography Awards is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive competitions in the photography world today. Over 8,000 submissions from 90 countries were received for the 2011 International Photography Awards with over 70 jurors, the largest to date. The Foundation's mission is to honor master photographers, discover new and emerging talent, and promote the appreciation of photography.

All winning images are available as Fine Art Prints. If you'd like to order the whole series, you get one print for free! Email us for pricing.

Want to photograph these amazing animals yourself? Join us next year on the White & Wild Japan workshop to shoot snow monkeys, whooper swans, Steller sea eagles and Japanese cranes in a stunning snow covered winter wonderland. More info and videoclips on our website.


21 August 2011

Falling Skies


Namibia is like our second home - we've been there countless times and simply love the country. When we went there for the first time, hardly anyone had ever heard of it, let alone seen photographs of the surreal scenery. Now, many years later, it is one of the most popular landscape photography destinations in Africa, there are Namibia pictures all over the internet, and for a large part we have ourselves to blame for it, bringing groups there every year. As a result, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to create something original at this incredible place.

This year I got very lucky when the heavens decided to bring me something entirely different from the blue skies that I've become so used to. What you see here is very dense fog creeping over the dunes, about to fill the valley. The fog lasted for over an hour even after sunrise, and it was the most magical hour I have ever spent there.

D3s, AF-S 14-24/2.8, 1/13 @ f/8, ISO 200, focus blend

14 August 2011

Bear shots in The Daily Mail

Two of Marsel's brown bear images from Katmai National Park, Alaska, are now featured in UK newspaper The Daily Mail. You can read the full article here.




This year's bear adventure is already fully booked, but if you'd like to join us next year, please check out the Ultimate Bears photo tour page on our website.

11 August 2011

Oh no, not again!

Japanese macaques (macaca fuscata), also known as snow monkeys, like to bathe in the warm water of the natural hot springs. With outside temperatures below freezing and a constant water temperature of 42°C, who can blame them?

These photogenic animals have become used to humans wanting to photograph them, so they are not shy and stay very relaxed in human presence. This little one however seemed to think 'Oh no, not again!' when one of the participants on our Japan workshop tried to take a photograph.




What I like about this scene, is the almost human-like expression, and the fact that the camera lens makes the young macaque look even smaller than it already is.

Nikon D3s, AF-S 70-200/2.8 VR II, 1/1000 @ f/5.6, ISO 400

If you would like to join us on the 2012 Japan tour, please have a look at the White & Wild Japan photo tour page on our website for dates, prices, images and video clips.

28 July 2011

Seminar Natuurfotografie - Van idee tot print

We are organizing a seminar for Dutch speaking participants. So, sorry, this post is in Dutch.

De meest gestelde vraag die ik in de loop der jaren heb gekregen, is hoe ik mijn foto's zo helder en scherp krijg. Op de tweede plaats staat de vraag of ik ook workshops of cursussen in Nederland geef.

Op veler verzoek zal ik daarom op zaterdag 4 februari 2012 een seminar natuurfotografie geven.

Tijdens dit seminar laat ik stap voor stap zien hoe ik te werk ga; van het ruwe idee tot en met de uiteindelijke print of publicatie. Camera-instellingen, techniek, RAW-conversie, kleurprofielen en beeldbewerking in Photoshop komen allemaal uitvoerig aan bod. 

Dit seminar is bedoeld voor natuurfotografen van alle ervaringsniveaus die meer uit hun foto's willen halen.

Klik hier voor meer informatie over deze dag en het aanmeldingsformulier.

Marsel


27 July 2011

Interview in Digital SLR Photo Magazine

UK-based magazine Digital SLR Photography now features a 4-page interview with Marsel in their August issue. The article is about our trip to Libya earlier this year and the editor has selected 12 images to go with the interview.

Photograph shot by Daniëlla (the coffee is a dead giveaway)

The key question that Marsel was asked, was: why Libya? In the interview he explains the thinking process behind this unusual choice, and he tells about the expedition itself. We think it looks really good, but then again, we're not really objective. :-)


>Click here for large version<

18 July 2011

Amnesia

I got a message the other day on Facebook from someone that said he loved my crane shot on PDN. Crane shot on PDN? I didn't recall any image requests from PDN, nor having sent shots to them, so I decided to investigate.

It took me half an hour to find the shot - it was really there.

Turns out that I myself entered this crane picture last year in the 2010 National Geographic Traveler/PDN The Great Outdoors photo contest, and apparently it was selected as one of the winners...

So I guess this makes it official: image processing causes amnesia. I'm gonna turn this computer off right now and get myself a coke.




15 July 2011

Japan is safe

We received a few emails from people who are interested in joining us on the 2012 Japan tour, wanting to know whether it is safe to travel to Japan.

It is absolutely safe to travel with us to and in Japan. We wouldn't be going there ourselves if this weren't the case!

All our photography locations are far away from the destructed areas near Sendai. From Tokyo we will travel in the exact opposite direction to the other side of Honshu Island where we will photograph the snow monkeys, and later on we will fly directly from Tokyo to Hokkaido.

Six United Nations agencies monitoring the impact of Japan’s damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant have confirmed that there are no threats to human health or any major disruption to air travel to or within the country. The joint statement was issued by the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Tourism Organization.

Earlier this year the Japanese travel and tourism industry was hit hard by the travel cancellations. Joining us to visit this amazing country will actually help the people of Japan to get the enconomy back on its feet again. Tadatoshi Mamiya, president of the Japan National Tourism Organization, said: “We will strive to encourage even more tourists to visit Japan, and when they do, the people of Japan will thank them for their messages of encouragement, prayers and support that are helping the nation to recover from this disaster.”

13 July 2011

White Silence

I'm still processing. Yesterday I did Alaska, the day before that Egypt. Almost every day for the past week I returned to this image of sleeping whooper swans because it was a difficult one to process. The tones are so delicate and the nuances so subtle that even the smallest adjustment has a big impact. Every evening I would open the shot again and look at it with a fresh perspective. And every evening I made tiny adjustments. Yesterday evening I finally had the feeling I got it right, so here it is.


>Click here for larger version<

I know - the birds are small, you can't see their heads, eyes or beaks, there's no spectacular feather detail, no action, and no thermonuclear colors in the sky. Yet that is exactly why I like this.

Every year on the Japan trip we have on average one or two days with hoar frost, in my opinion one of the prettiest winter conditions you can get.

On this particular morning we had left our ryokan long before sunrise to see the whooper swans wake up, and watch their fascinating morning rituals. When we got closer to the lake I noticed the hoar frost and decided to take the group to one of my favorite and very quiet spots.

We had to walk through a strip of trees and dense vegetation to reach the shore, which would normally create a lot of noise that could potentially disturb the swans. The snow was about three feet high though, and the perfect natural sound proofing. When I reached the water's edge, a few swans looked up and then went back to sleep again.

I set up my tripod, took this shot, and then just sat there for a while - amazed.

Please check out the larger version; this small size makes very little sense.
Nikon D3s, AF-S 14-24/2.8, 1/125 @ f/16

04 July 2011

Steller's Sea Eagle

It's that time of the year again: processing. Last weekend I've spent most of my time going through the shots from our Egypt expedition, today it's Japan.

One of the highlights of each year's Japan tour is always shooting eagles on the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Steller's sea eagle [Haliaeetus pelagicus] is the biggest bird in the genus Haliaeetus and is one of the largest raptors overall. The typical size range is 85-105 cm (33-41 in) long and the wingspan is 195-230 cm (77-91 in). Females typically weigh from 6.8-9 kg (15-20 lb), while males are considerably lighter with a weight range from 4.9-6 kg (11-13 lb). An unverified record exists of a huge female that weighed 12.7 kilograms (28 lb)!

This species is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. The main threats to its survival are habitat alteration, industrial pollution and over-fishing. The current population is estimated at 5,000 and decreasing.

Personally, I think they're one of the prettiest raptors on this planet, and seeing dozens of them at the same time is a real treat.

This year there was a lot of pack ice along the coast, so much that we almost weren't able to leave the harbor with our boat. Luckily, a lot of pack ice usually means a lot of Steller's, and every direction you looked there were Steller's. There were so many of them, that it was actually hard to keep an eye on them all. Shooting with a small group of people proved to be a real advantage here - the more eyes, the more you see. Whenever an eagle would come flying within our range, someone would shout: 'Incoming from the left!' Or right. When you're looking through your view finder and you're totally focused on your subject, you tend to miss what's going on around you, and this group strategy was the perfect solution to not miss any flight shots. And it was great fun!



This is one of my favorite shots from the first day. The pack ice worked very nicely as a giant reflector, and adds context to the shot.


Nikon D3s, AF-S VR II 200-400/4.0, 1/1250 @ f/8, ISO 400, handheld

23 June 2011

Back from Namibia

It's been a week now since we returned from this year's Namibia trip. It was totally awesome, thanks to all participants - such a nice group of people. Thanks!

For us it was a particularly special visit this time because of the weather. Ever since our first trip to Namibia many years ago, we have seen the climate changing. Namibia is getting wetter and wetter. 2011 marks the third consecutive year of heavy rains in the region. Flood levels in north-central Namibia this year were eight centimeters higher than in the 2009 flood season, setting a new record for the area where about one million people - half of Namibia's population - live. Every year Efundja – the Oshiwambo name for the annual floods coming from Angola – fills the oshanas (floodplains) in the northern regions. The arrival of the flood is much anticipated as it brings fish, restores grazing capacity and ensures water reserves for the dry months ahead. But in recent years floods have become heavier and more frequent, doing more damage than good.

One of the places that best shows the effects of the heavy rains, is Sossusvlei. Over the years we've seen more and more vegetation on the red sand dunes, which are getting greener and greener. This was also the first year that the whole Sossusvlei pan was still flooded during our visit. To see so much water in what is supposed to be one of the driest places on earth is pretty strange.

Our room in Sossusvlei. Photographed after we returned from the dunes.

But apart from much wetter, it was also much colder than previous years. In the south it was actually freezing during the night, and the early mornings were very chilly indeed. It was kind of weird to see people walking around in jackets, hats and gloves - not quite what you'd expect when you're going to Africa. The good thing though was that the skies were crisp and clear, and the days were pleasantly warm.

To be honest, we were afraid that Etosha would be very quiet this year with water readily available throughout the park for all the animals. The succesful game viewing in Etosha is based on a number of strategically placed watering holes that usually attract lots of wildlife. But with water all over the place, there was no need for the animals to visit the waterholes anymore and they could basically stay wherever they wanted. Luckily this was not the case. The main waterhole at Okaukuejo was much more quiet than usual, but we still got our share of giraffe, zebra and white and black rhino. Compared to last year the game drives were much more productive though. We had some good elephant sightings and an excellent encounter with a pride of active lions right at sunrise. Perfect timing!

All in all a great trip that we thoroughly enjoyed. There were some familiar faces (happy to see you back!) and we made some new friends that we hope to see again sometime!

I've just started processing the first images, and so far the results look much better than I expected. You'd think I would have reached the point by now that there is nothing left to improve upon after having shot many thousands of images, but I'm glad that this is not the case. As soon as I have finished processing, I will post some of the results here so you can judge for yourself. :-)

13 May 2011

A Cappella

For most of the subjects that I shoot, I already have the perfect image hanging somewhere on the walls inside my head. This doesn't always happen right away, but usually after my first attempt, having experienced the behavior of the subject and seeing the location, I have a pretty good idea of what I want. Unfortunately with wildlife photography, what you want is not necessarily what you get. :) When the light is perfect, the subject is not there. When the subject is there, the light is terrible. Or when the light is perfect and the subject is there, it is in the wrong position, facing away from the camera, or not doing what you want it to do. Frustrating as this might sound, it is also one of the reasons wildlife photography is so addictive - you keep trying to get the shot you're after.

I visit Japan every year, and one of the highlights of the tour are the beautiful and highly endangered Japanes crane (Grus japonensis, also known as red-crowned crane), the second rarest crane in the world. The graceful winter dances of these elegant birds are a joy to watch and photograph. I have planned this trip during winter when there's usually lots of snow. As these birds are primarily white, the shot I really wanted to get was one where you'd have a white foreground (snow), a light gray sky, and the birds on the horizon - different shades of white and gray. As often, this shot proved to be much more easy to produce inside my head than in the field. On last year's visit though, all the elements briefly worked together in perfect harmony.

It had been snowing continuously on our last morning, so the snow was fresh and the sky was fully overcast. The light was soft and all around us, and the cranes were doing their usual thing - throwing their heads up in the air and calling as loud as they could. Once small group was walking up a slope, removing all background vegetation resulting in a clean and graphic scene with low contrast and very subtle detail - just the way I like it. When they simultaneously started calling with their beaks pointed upwards, I took this shot. It's moments like this that I enjoy most, probably because they don't happen very often.


Nikon D3, AF-S VR 200-400/4.0, 1/800 @ f/10, ISO 400



10 May 2011

Full Moon Mesa

Icons are icons for a reason. My initial feeling is always to avoid icons, because they've already been photographed a kazillion times before - what's the point. However, at the same time I'm always curious to see the icon myself, and when I'm there I always end up trying to do my own version. Same here.

Everywhere you read about Mesa Arch, people say that it's a sunrise location and they're very specific even about the exact time that you should shoot it - only during a few minutes after sunrise when the arch turns bright red. This was very helpful information, so I decided to go there at night. :-)

The most obvious advantage was that there was no one there - not very typical for this location. I had the whole place to myself and was able to use a small flashlight to paint the arch without bothering anyone else.

I had timed my visit with full moon so that I basically had the same light situation as in the early morning, but much more subtle. I hid the moon behind the arch and used the moonlight to illuminate the background. During the 60 second exposure I painted the arch and the foreground rocks. I added a warm up gel to get a nice color contrast between the warm tones of the rock and the blue of the sky. This is a single exposure.

Nikon D3S, AF-S 14-24/2.8, 60s @ f/8, ISO 800, flashlight

>Click here for larger version<

09 May 2011

Feature in the Daily Mail

UK newspaper The Daily Mail features Marsel's image of a charging lion in the Kalahari desert. It is used as inspiration for new entries into the 2011 Travel Photographer of the Year competition. Marsel's image is part of the exhibition currently held at the Royal Geographical Society in London and was a winning entry in the 2010 Travel Photographer Of The Year awards, as well as voted most popular by the people visting the exhibition. Read the full article in the Daily Mail 

04 May 2011

New photo tour to Egypt: Sahara Sandscapes

In 2009 I decided that in 2010 I would focus more on landscape photography, and so I did. For a couple of years I had done so much wildlife stuff, that at times it felt like shooting on auto pilot. I needed a change of subject matter to force myself to think and work differently. The 200-400 and the 600 went into the closet, the wide angles were suddenly my standard lenses on most trips. And how nice it is to travel like a landscape photographer - my camera bag lost at least 20 pounds.

Deciding on possible locations was not an easy task. There are countless beautiful places on our planet, but there are already zillions of photographs of most of them. As we were also thinking about adding another Squiver photo tour, we wanted to go somewhere special - far off the beaten track to get the sort of shots you haven't seen a hundred times before. In my photography I like strong shapes, clutter-free compositions and graphic lines, so the desert it was. :-)


When I say Egypt, you say pyramids - and you're correct: there are indeed pyramids in Egypt. We didn't visit them though, because a) they've been photographed to death, b) it's way too crowdy to even think about taking a photograph, and c) we had something much better in mind: the Western Desert and the White Desert. 

I have a strange preference for surreal landscapes, which explains our tours to Namibia and Turkey. But Egypt has a few extraterrestrial landscapes to offer as well. No need to pay 20 million dollars for a trip into space when you can visit a different planet with Squiver - the landscape of the White Desert is alien in every way. It has a white, cream color and massive chalk rock formations that have been created as a result of occasional sandstorms in the area. The chalk-white landscape is strewn with otherworldly shapes, boulders of brilliant white which thrust up from the surface of the desert, intensified by the clear light of noon, shimmering gold at sunset or blackened and shrunken in a cloud-filled sky. Cupcakes, mushrooms, rabbits, profiles, monoliths, tables, crowns, swirls, mounds and any other shape your mind imagines dot the golden yellow sands for as far as the eye can see.


In the remote past, the White Desert was a sea-bed, the sedimentary layers of rock formed by marine fauna when the ocean dried up. The landscape we see today was formed  by the plateau breaking down, leaving harder rock shapes standing while the softer parts are eroded away by wind and sand. In some parts the chalk surface still has the appearance of delicate wind-ruffled waves on water. The White Desert is unlike anything you've ever seen before.



The Western Desert is more mountainous and has a high plateau that offers spectacular views on the Mars-like scenery below. You can walk here for days on end and see the landscape changing around every corner. A night under the stars is an experience never forgotten. As the sky turns pink then deepest fiery orange, the rock-shapes fade and silence is all around. Sitting around a small fire and enjoying the simplest meal of chicken, rice and vegetables, you will feel like nothing has ever tasted so good. If the moon is near full, the white chalk rock shapes glow eerily, like ghosts in the darkness under a sky still filled with bright stars and there is no need for artificial lights.



This is a unique trip to a unique location and an experience of a lifetime. We're excited that tourism is alive and kicking again in Egypt, and we're looking forward to show you around in one of the most spectacular parts of the African Sahara. If you like adventure, then this is the trip for you. Check out the photo tours page on our website for additional information and download the day-to-day schedule.(PDF).

Utah date changed to: 17 December - 23 December 2011

Because we don't want to keep anybody from having Christmas with their family, we have pushed the Utah trip one day forward. You should arrive Saturday 17 December in the evening at the latest to join in on the fun. And the tour ends after a last early morning shoot on Friday 23 December. Merry Christmas :-)

03 May 2011

New photo tour added to Utah, USA: Arches under the stars

We've always wanted to visit the National Parks of Utah, and when we finally did in November last year, we were stunned by the incredible beauty. Sure, we'd seen many photographs from Utah before our visit - who hasn't - but it just goes to show that a picture can never beat the feeling of actually being there.

We were so impressed by the landscape and the photographic possibilities of Arches National Park and the surrounding areas, that we decided to organize a photo tour to this dramatic geologic marvel of the American Southwest.



Arches contains one of the largest concentrations of natural sandstone arches in the world. The arches and numerous other extraordinary geologic features, such as spires, pinnacles, pedestals and balanced rocks, are highlighted in striking foreground and background views created by contrasting colors, landforms and textures. It is truly a landscape photographer's dream.

Water and ice, extreme temperatures and underground salt movement are responsible for the sculptured rock scenery of Arches National Park. On clear days with blue skies, it is hard to imagine such violent forces, or the 100 million years of erosion that created this land. The more than 2,000 cataloged arches range in size from a three-foot opening, the minimum considered an arch, to the longest one, Landscape Arch, which measures 306 feet from base to base. New arches are being formed and old ones are being destroyed. Erosion and weathering are relatively slow but are relentlessly creating dynamic landforms that gradually change through time. Occasionally change occurs more dramatically. In 1991 a slab of rock about 60 feet long, 11 feet wide and 4 feet thick fell from the underside of Landscape Arch, leaving behind an even thinner ribbon of rock.

The park lies atop an underground salt bed, which is basically responsible for the arches and spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins and eroded monoliths that make the area a photographer's mecca.



After we thoroughly explored the park and some of the lesser-known areas outside, we decided that winter would be the perfect time for this trip. First of all, winter has the fewest crowds. Arches NP is a very popular destination, and rightly so, and we want to avoid getting hordes of tourists in our shots. Also, in winter there is always a chance of snow. Southeast Utah is part of the Colorado Plateau, a "high desert" region that experiences wide temperature fluctuations, sometimes over 40 degrees in a single day. Winters are cold, with highs averaging -1 to 10C (30-50F), and lows averaging -18 to -6C (0-20F). From personal experience we can tell you that Arches in the snow is even more breathtaking, so it's worth the chill factor.

A nice advantage of photographing in winter, is that sunrise and sunset times are a bit more humane. :-) The light is also softer in winter and the air more clear.

Chances are that we'll be getting a couple of clear nights, during which we will try some night photography. Marsel will give a dedicated workshop on night photography, light painting and shooting stars and star trails, so that should be great fun. We have already selected a couple of good locations for this specific purpose and we're looking forward to our nightly sessions!



Balancing Rock, Delicate Arch, The Windows, Wall Street, Devils Garden, Landscape Arch, are only a few of the locations we will visit. But outside of Arches NP there is also plenty to photograph, like the countless bird's eye views of the regions many stone canyons and spires from the high plateaus of Canyonlands National Park. And for those that like hiking, there are even more landscape gems to discover. We already know where to find them, and what the best time of day is for photography, so we won't waste any time.

Moab will be our base from where we will start our daily excursions. It's a quaint little town, but it's got everything we'll need, including good food.

We expect this trip to fill up fast, so if you're interested in joining us - don't hesitate and book a spot on this tour. More information & images can be found on the photo tours page on our website. You can also download the detailed day-to-day schedule (PDF), with lots of panoramic images. Hope to see you there!

07 April 2011

Sand Storm

The past few weeks I have finally been able to find some time to go through the thousands of images that I shot over the past year. It was an interesting journey, jumping from Libya to Alaska, and from Egypt to Japan, all in a matter of days. I've only scratched the surface, but it was nice to relive all those amazing trips in front of my computer. Here's one from our last trip to Kenya.


The Common Eland (Taurotragus oryx), also known as the Southern Eland or Eland antelope, is a savannah and plains antelope found in East and Southern Africa. It is the largest antelope in the African continent.

The name "Eland" is derived from the Dutch word for moose. When Dutch settlers came to the Cape Province they named the largest wild herbivore they met with the name of the huge northern herbivore. In Dutch the animal is called "Eland antelope" to distinguish it from the Moose, which is found in the northern boreal forests. This is all very confusing for us Dutchies, but we only have ourselves to blame for it.

The eland has a mass of about 650 kilograms, which is the double of the kudu. Elands are said to be one of the slowest antelopes, but they can jump over a height of 2.5 meters or above. When walking, the joints in the eland's foreleg produce a sharp clicking sound, the cause of which has not been widely investigated. The sound carries some distance and is a good indication of an approaching herd. Scientists take it as a form of communication.

The elands are most active in the morning and late afternoon, lying sheltered in the heat of the day. They're commonly found in mixed groups, usually containing 25-70 individuals, though up to 400 have been observed.

They're not as common as most of the other African antelopes, and most of the times I've tried to photograph them, they ran away the moment they saw me. Buttshots galore.

I had spotted this small herd of eland one late afternoon and decided to stick around and see how they would react on my presence. I didn't want to spook them, so I started shooting with my 600. After a few moments I moved a little closer and stopped again to let them get used to me. This proved to be the right strategy for this herd, because eventually I was able to switch to my 200-400.

The whole scene wasn't particularly interesting though - the light was getting pretty, but nothing was happening that could really excite me. That was until the wind started to pick up and I saw a huge sand storm on the horizon, moving in my direction. My guide noticed this as well and wanted to seek shelter, but I decided to risk getting sand blasted and see how this would influence the scene.

A few minutes later the storm hit us hard - the Jeep shook heavily and the sand almost peeled my skin. Most animals don't like sort of weather, because it confuses their senses - it's almost impossible to hear, see or smell your enemies in these extreme circumstances. The eland therefore huddled together, waiting for the storm to die down.

The tons of sand in the air did just what I was hoping for - it reduced the subjects to shapes, created a warm low contrast mood, and eliminated most unwanted detail. This is my favorite shot as it shows the large bull separated from the rest of the herd, as a true leader. I also liked the elegant pose of the hind leg.

I cropped it to a pano format because the empty sky didn't work for me.

[Nikon D3, AF-S VR 200-400/4.0, 1/200 @ f/11, ISO 800]

If you want to join us to this year's Kenya tour, please check out our website for more information.

16 March 2011

Another publication in National Geographic

I'm proud to announce that National Geographic has selected yet another one of my images for their magazine.


The image is featured in the April issue as a double page spread, and shows the inside of one of the abandoned houses in Kolmanskop, Namibia.

Kolmanskop is a deserted diamond mining town in the middle of the dunes of the Namib desert. Once a thriving town, it was suddenly abandoned in the 50's when more diamonds were found in another place. Since then, the desert has been claiming back her territory. The early morning sun only shines directly into this room at a specific time of year.

This image is available as a Limited Edition fine art print. Please check out the Shop section on our website for prices and sizes.

15 March 2011

Namibia Untamed 2011: fully booked

We're still getting emails from people wanting to join the 2011 Namibia Untamed tour, but unfortunately we're already fully booked. The good news however is that the dates for the 2012 tour have been set and will be published on our website soon.

13 March 2011

Interview with Marsel

Nature photographer Kristel Schneider has interviewed Marsel for her blog Visions and Nature. You can find the interview here.

11 March 2011

Earthquake in Japan

We just heard about the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan. We are deeply shocked by these terrible events and our hearts go out to the Japanese people.

For those of you who have travelled to Japan with us before: we have contacted our friends and colleagues in Japan and we're relieved that they're all ok.

03 March 2011

TPOTY Public's Choice

My charging lion shot received the most votes from visitors to the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition in London, so it is now officially the Public's Choice. A big thank you to all the visitors that voted for my photograph!

I've won a personalised leather portfolio book from Plastic Sandwich, and I'm looking forward to build my own.

28 February 2011

Back from Japan

We have just returned from Japan. It was one of our best visits ever. Not only because we had such a wonderful group, but also because of the weather conditions. There was so much snow everywhere that the views were even more spectacular this time. We got falling snow at the snow monkeys, which was tough for the lenses (why does the wind always blow in the opposite direction that you're shooting in?) but great for photos. We also got hoar frost at the swans and the cranes, something I hope for every year but doesn't happen often. The ice conditions were a little bit too good - there was so much ice that we had trouble leaving the harbor with our boat. Not that we needed to go very far, because there was a lot of raptor activity and we all got great white tailed eagle and Steller's sea eagle shots.


Our next White & Wild Japan tour will be from 13 to 25 February 2012. For more information, please have a look at the Photo Tours section on our website.

11 February 2011

Squiver earns Five Star rating on Photo Travel Review Magazine

We are proud to announce that the online magazine Photo Travel Review has rated Squiver Photo Tours with their highest rating: five stars!


Photo Travel Review is run by photographers who have traveled extensively throughout the world. Each of them is recognized widely in the photographic community for the quality of their photographic skills. In addition, they each bring a wealth of experience from their occupations and professions. Their interest is to provide information of value to people who want the perfect photographic adventure.

From their website:
'The PTR Team knows the world photographic community very well. We have attended seminars, conducted our own, and we know the work of most well-recognized nature photographers. Marsel and Daniella offer something very special to the traveling photographer — vast experience and recognition for their work, a variety of places to go, reasonable costs, and expert instruction. In sum, the best combination of all attributes that make up a successful photographic holiday.
Photo Travel Review Magazine highly recommends Squiver Tours. The offerings are among the best in the world — Squiver has earned PTR’s five star rating.
We are tempted to add a “+” to the rating because their tours are among the most reasonably priced that we have encountered.'

Of course we knew this already, but it's always nice to hear it from someone else. ;-)

If you would like to be part of the Squiver experience, please have a look at our website for tours currently on offer. Our trips are for all experience levels and you don't need expensive gear to return with great results.

We are working hard on two new trips, and we will introduce them here later this month.

05 February 2011

Naturescapes Image of the Year

I am proud to announce that my star trail image 'In the Dead of the Night' was awarded Image of the Year in the Landscape category of the 2010 Naturescapes Images of the Year Awards.

The image was shot on last year's Namibia Untamed photo tour.


Namibia is not only the least densely populated country of the world; it is also one of the driest. The clear desert air is perfect for shooting stars and star trails, so that's one of the things we always try on each year's Namibia tour.

We had planned the trip to coincide with new moon, so that we would have pitch-dark nights with lots of stars. For this shot of a dead camelthorn tree in Deadvlei I made a 58 second exposure for the master image, during which I painted the tree and the foreground with a small torch and a warm-up gel. There was still some afterglow on the dunes in the background. During the night the camera took little over 80 shots, each four minutes long.

As I was shooting with a D3X, I converted the star shots to jpeg after raw conversion before stacking them in PS, to keep the file size manageable.

Equipment Used: Nikon D3X, AF-S 14-24/2.8 at 14mm, 58 seconds, f/5.6, 80x4min at f/5.6, ISO 100, Gitzo tripod, Nikon programmable cable release.

Our next Namibia Untamed tour will be in May, and we're already looking forward to shooting star trails there again. If you would like to join us, have a look at the Namibia Untamed photo tour page for more information. Don't forget to check out the video of this spectacular trip on our website www.squiver.com!

Marsel