When it comes to photography, I admit that I’m a bit of a technophobe. I enjoy photographing my travels, but can’t seem to get beyond shooting in auto. All those instructions about F-stops and shutter or aperture priority go in one ear and out the other. When Panasonic UK invited me to a wildlife photography workshop, I was pleased to discover that their Lumix GX80 camera has a few functions that help you take better photographs without having to master all those knobs and settings. After trying the Lumix GX80 out during the workshop and back at home, here’s my review;
Let’s Start with the camera body
As a travel blogger, camera size is a big deal for me. I travel light and don’t want to carry a big camera around, so the micro four-third compact body of the Panasonic Lumix GX80 suits my travel style perfectly. It’s smaller than a normal DSLR – ideal to hold with one hand, tuck into a medium size handbag and be reasonably discreet when you whip it out in a restaurant or marketplace.
I liked the slightly textured and retro look of the body with a wider grip at one end, making it easy to hold one-handed, when juggling a phone and notebook. Most of all I love that the micro four-third size bodies take a range of interchangeable lenses, so you have the flexibility to go wide angle for a hotel interior or zoom for wildlife shots.
Looking at the lens
The Panasonic Lumix GX80 comes with a standard 12-32 lens which is fine for taking landscapes and shots of people and places. The Panasonic lens on this camera is also interchangeable with the Olympus range, which is great as I already have an Olympus wide angle lens, so I can swap them over for my hotel interiors.
When I tried out the Lumix GX80 during the wildlife photography workshop I quickly realised that the standard 12-32mm lens would not cut the mustard for wildlife photography. The clue was how quickly the pro-wildlife photographers changed up to big zoom lenses, so I followed suit and tested out the 45-200 lens which allowed me to get some nice close-ups of animals a few metres away from me.
For those safari shots with animals in the distance I would have needed an even bigger zoom lens. Since my travel photography tends to be a complete mixture of landscapes, portraits, food shots and the occasional wildlife shot I need a lens that will be versatile. I’m always trying to pack in a lot and don’t have time to change lenses. On the advice of top wildlife photographer, Phil Gould, who taught our workshop, I’ll be looking at a 14-140 lens that will take give me all the standard shots with the option to zoom in that little bit closer, all in one lens.
Screen and Viewfinder
Another feature I love about this camera is that it has both a viewfinder and a viewing screen that pulls out from the body and can be tilted at different angles. You flip between them with a press of a button. Using a viewfinder helps you compose a shot more accurately in sunny conditions when there’s too much glare on the screen.
However, the angled screen was very useful when you are taking a shot that’s high or low. For instance you can take a shot of your food from above, while easily composing the shot on the angled screen. I noticed that the pro-wildlife photographers at the workshop were using this feature by setting their camera on the grass to photograph animals from a low angle, while using the screen to monitor the composition. The only downside is that the screen does not swivel round completely, meaning that you can’t use it to position yourself for selfies or vlogging.
Another feature of the Lumix GX80 is the inbuilt stabilisation and fast autofocus which really helps in some travel situations such as busy public places where you are trying to capture the action and atmosphere of the situation.
So far so good, but now to those features of the camera that can help you take better photographs without having to master all the technical settings.
Testing out the 4K feature on the Lumix GX80
I enjoyed trying out the 4K feature of the Panasonic Lumix GX80 which allows you to take better action shots. Essentially the camera takes a burst of images or short video, but unlike most video, each individual frame is high quality, giving you an 8MB file that can be blown up to A3 size. As technology develops it’s likely that even higher quality 6K cameras will be available in the future. This feature is a game changer for action shots, since you can take a burst of photos, then review them on the camera to pick out the best one and save that individual shot, deleting the rest if you wish.
I tested out the 4K feature at our wildlife photography workshop and enjoyed trying to catch the perfect shot of a squirrel running across a branch or a wildcat jumping in the air. I set the 4K to stop/start mode, which meant that like shooting video I pressed the button to start the burst and pressed again to stop. As you can see from the squirrel photos above, a fraction of a second can make all the difference when your subject is moving quickly.
I found that the 4K function is best suited to situations where you can anticipate the action, since with 30 frames per second you don’t want to be taking more than a few seconds of the 4K video. You also need to allow for some delay as each 4K burst takes a few seconds to save before you can take your next photo. I can imagine using this function to capture someone jumping or running, a child on a swing or blowing out their birthday candles, informal portraits in a restaurant, musicians or dancers, or of course wildlife. For family photography it would be ideal if you have young children who can’t sit still, to enable you to capture their expressions or movement. Take a look at my 4K series of photos of the wildcat jumping in the air – which would you choose?
The Post-focus function on the Lumix GX80
The post-focus function is another feature that allows you to increase the range and quality of your photographs without having to master all the technical settings or change lenses. Like the 4K function, the camera is effectively taking a burst of photos that focus on different elements of the composition. Once you have switched on the post-focus function and taken your photos, you then review and tap the screen to choose the focal point that suits you best.
I can imagine using the post-focus function to take shots in a restaurant then decide later which elements on the table you want in focus. Other examples could be a landscape where there is a flower in the foreground and mountains in the background, or a person stretching out their hand where you can’t decide whether to have their face or hand in focus. The post-focus is best for static scenes where you can control the composition, like the flower and orange photos I took below.
Thank goodness there’s wifi!
Since I post a lot of photos to social media I knew that my next camera would need to have wifi function so was thrilled to find this is a feature of the Panasonic Lumix GX80. While I’m happy with the quality of the photos on my iPhone, I’ve heard from serious instagrammers that the higher the quality of the photos they post, the better their engagement. I love that the Panasonic Lumix GX80 allows me to take the highest quality photos and still share them easily and quickly on social media, which is a large part of my work as a travel blogger.
I tried out the wifi by downloading the Panasonic image app onto my iPhone, then putting in the password given when prompted. Once you’ve done this the first time, the camera connects via wifi to the iPhone whenever you press the wifi button and select the correct wifi network on the phone. Via the app I can review all the photos I’ve just taken on the Lumix GX80 on my phone screen. I can check they are sharp, just as if they were on my phone, then select whichever I want and they are immediately transferred to my phone memory. Unfortunately only the still images are transferrable this way and the 4K videos have to be downloaded to your computer via the memory card – which is a shame as some of these short clips would be great to post ‘live’ on social media.
The Panasonic app also means that the phone can become a remote control device for your camera so you could set it up and then take photos from a distance. I can also review the photos in the phone app and delete any duds immediately, freeing up more space on my memory card. There’s also a collage function within the app although you don’t have the same flexibility to reposition photos as I do with an app like Picframe, which I currently use to make collages on my iPhone.
With the wifi function to transfer photos quickly to the iPhone, I will probably take more of my photos in future on the Panasonic Lumix GX80 and hopefully increase the quality of my social media photography in the process.
Battery life and charging on the Lumix GX80
The camera comes with a charger lead that plugs into the side of the camera. The USB fitting at the other end can be plugged into any USB charger such as a portable battery pack or a car USB charger as well as the plug that comes as standard. While I’m sure I could buy a separate battery charger, this approach will probably prove more flexible for keeping my camera charged on the move.
If you’re using a lot of the functions such as 4K, be aware that the battery may not last very long. After a couple of hours constant shooting in our wildlife photography workshop, my battery was dead, so I’ll need to buy some spares. You also need to make sure that after using the wifi function, you disconnect it, as this also drains the battery. I suspect that if you are shooting a lot of 4K images, this will eat also into your memory card space, so you need a memory card with plenty of space for all the high quality photos.
The Panasonic Lumix GX80: my recommendation
I am really pleased with my new Panasonic Lumix GX80 and will be using it in conjunction with my iPhone in the future. I love the smaller body size, coupled with the option for interchangeable lenses, as well as having both viewfinder and tilt screen. The wifi now enables me to transfer high quality images to my phone so I’m expecting to improve the quality of my social media posts, especially for Instagram.
I think the 4K and post-focus are fun features that I’ll be playing with to enable me to take better photos without having to worry about which technical setting or lens I’m using. For travellers I’d recommend the Lumix GX80 as an excellent all-round camera that will help you take better photographs when you need something that’s a step up from your camera phone.
Discovering Lumix Unmissable Moments
If you want more inspiration on how other photographers are using the Panasonic Lumix G range check out the Lumix Experience website where you’ll find galleries and video tutorials to show you how you can get the best from your Lumix camera. You can also follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #UnmissableMoments.
Wildlife photography at the British Wildlife Centre
All the wildlife photographs were taken in a wildlife photography workshop at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, where you can see and photograph some of the wild animals that are native to the UK. The centre also runs regular photography workshops where you can improve your wildlife photography, with tips from the experts. The workshop I attended was specially arranged to enable our group to try out the Panasonic Lumix GX80 camera.
British Wildlife Centre, Eastbourne Road, Newchapel, Lingfield, Surrey, RH7 6LF, Tel: 01342 834 658
Key information about the Panasonic Lumix GX80
- 16-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor, no optical low-pass filter
- ISO 200-25,600 (ISO 100-25,600 extended)
- Dual IS: 5-axis in-body stabilisation working with 2-axis in-lens
- 4K video recording and 4K Photo mode
- 76-million-dot equivalent EVF (16:9 aspect ratio)
- 04-million-dot 3-inch tilting touchscreen
- New low-vibration shutter: 60sec – 1/4000sec (1sec – 1/16000 sec electronic)
- £509 body only, £599 with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
Thanks to Panasonic UK who invited me to the workshop and gave me a Panasonic Lumix GX80 for the purposes of this review.
With more than 120 active volcanoes, Indonesia is a hive of seismic activity. An archipelago dotted across an area the width of the United States, every vista is backed by the profile of a nearby volcano. Audley Travel specialist Mat Hall shares his memories of hiking some of these volcanoes and experiencing the volcanic geology first-hand.
After first visiting Indonesia, I compared my photos to a friend’s pictures, taken a few years before. They both showed the same landscapes, but their features differed dramatically. For me, this really piqued my fascination with a country that is continuously being altered by volcanic activity.
Why go volcano hiking in Indonesia?
It’s possible to see volcanic peaks all over Indonesia. Rather than simply enjoying the scenery, I’d argue that you can’t fully appreciate them without setting foot on one. Standing on volcanic lava rocks, surrounded by scattered ash, you can sometimes feel the movement of the earth below. Up close, the rumbling of a volcano sounds like a million old cars trying to start up at once.
Each volcano has its own unique geological features, so I’d suggest combining a few. For example, there’s a stark contrast in topography between the sprawling volcanic complex at Ijen and the perfect cone of Krakatoa. The calderas (volcanic craters caused by a collapsing magna chamber) can vary in size from a few metres, to hundreds of miles.
The smoking crater of Mount Bromo
Waking up at 3am, my guide picked me up in a 4×4 and drove me into Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park on the island of Java. En route we passed a checkpoint informing us there was no volcanic activity occurring. We were safe to continue. Driving up to a viewpoint, we find a position and wait for the sun rise over the four volcanic peaks of the park. Semeru, the highest peak, erupts every ten minutes, almost to the clock, with a puff of smoke.
From here, I began the one hour hike up to the rim of Bromo. The volcano itself lies in a vast sandy plain known as the sea of sands. Walking along this dusty grey moonscape, the side of the volcano looms up ahead, with steps cut into the side of the rock. On reaching the rim, I could see right down onto the smoking plateau of white ash. The smoke continuously billows from its depths and some of the rumbles were so loud they startled fellow visitors.
Nearby is a simple Hindu temple. It’s easy to miss – built out of volcanic rock, it blends into the landscape beyond. The volcano is worshipped by local Hindus who celebrate Yadnya Kasada each year in June. Pilgrims line the edge of the crater, throwing offerings into its depths to appease the god of the mountain.
Visit the highest acidic lake in the world at Mount Ijen
Perched right on the eastern point of Java, on a clear day you can see Bali from Mount Ijen’s peak. Part of an extensive volcanic landscape, Mount Ijen is the active volcano within the Ijen caldera, the largest on Java.
It was another early start. I woke at 5am and my guide drove me to ‘base camp’, nestled at the base of the volcano. Climbing at full moon, the path was so well lit I didn’t turn my torch on. I’d suggest planning a trip around the full moon if you have the flexibility: hiking by the cool light of the moon is quite surreal.
After an hour’s climb, you’ll come to a group of enterprising locals who have set up a camp offering tea, coffee and biscuits. You can refuel here before heading on to the rim. A final push to the top takes another hour before you’re on a narrow ridge overlooking the tumult below.
On my visit, smoke covered the caldera completely, making for a very spooky atmosphere. If you’re lucky, the smoke will clear and you’ll be able to see the turquoise lake filling the crater. Its unreal shade is caused by its acidity levels. The extreme acidity, sometimes with a pH as low as 0.5, is caused by hydrothermal waters rising from the magma chambers below.
The most unique feature is the lake-side solfatara. This is a geological phenomenon where sulphurous gasses emerge from vents in the caldera and, on meeting oxygen, burn with a neon blue light.
I thought my wake-up call was early, but my guide explained that sulphur miners arrive at 2am to begin work. Descending steep paths right down into the volcano, they hew chunks of sulphur before carrying it away in baskets on their shoulders. It’s dangerous work. Many miners carry more than their own bodyweight in sulphur on the return leg.
Hiking back down the volcano in daylight, I surveyed the surrounding landscape. It was covered in a lush blanket of trees and shrubs. Mineral-rich volcanic ash breaks down into the soil creating some of the most fertile land on earth.
Enjoy a volcano-cooked dinner at Mount Batur
On the island of Bali, Mount Batur juts above a landscape pockmarked with craters from countless previous eruptions. It currently sits between two merged calderas containing a crescent-shaped lake. From the viewpoint you can see numerous small villages and roads weaving their way around the lake, drawn by the populous fish and clean water.
Bali attracts more visitors than any other Indonesian island, so Batur can get quite busy. My guide suggested we visit at sunset rather than sunrise. The volcano also steams more in the evening, adding to the ambience. The climb is more gentle than other peaks, taking about two hours to reach the summit along well marked paths. From the top you can see the lake and villages stretching across the caldera – a real contrast to more desolate volcanoes.
Whilst waiting for the sun to set, my guide prepared a meal. Gathering handfuls of grass, he placed them into a nearby vent, creating a traditional oven. Gingerly putting my hand in, I could feel the heat from the earth below. A couple of eggs were popped in and, in minutes, we were enjoying hard boiled eggs with our pre-cooked rice and noodles. For dessert we enjoyed cooked bananas served with chocolate.
Sleep at the foot of an active volcano on Krakatoa
In my opinion, Krakatoa is the most unique volcano you can visit. On the hour and a half boat journey from Java’s mainland, my guide explained the history of the volcano. Once a large island, in 1883 a massive eruption split the island of Krakatoa into four small islands. The noise of the eruption is considered the loudest sound recorded in human history, and the pressure waves were recorded on barometers all over the world.
We were in fact visiting Anak Krakatoa, the ‘little child’ of the original Krakatoa volcano. As we rounded Rakata, another island fragment of the original volcano, Anak Krakatoa came into view. For me, it’s the very image of a stereotypical volcano – a neat cone shape jutting straight up from the sea.
Pulling up onto the beach, my guide began setting up camp. The island is completely undeveloped so we were staying in tents on the coast. Most of the island is covered in barren black volcanic rock but on the east side of the island, a small forest has managed to grow.
Hiking up the side of the volcano, we followed a safe, set route. Aside from a few scraggly trees at the base, we walked through a desolate wasteland. Volcanic rock changes shade with age, scarring the sides of the volcano with lines, marking each eruption. About halfway up, we stopped. We’d reached a viewpoint, the highest we could safely go. Any further, my guide tells me, and my shoes would melt.
We stopped with the smoking peak in the distance, steam coming off the ground a little way in front. For me, the view is one of the best I’ve seen – a completely undisturbed panorama of Anak Krakatoa’s sister fragments dotted in the ocean, with no signs of life.
A worthwhile addition to hiking the volcano, the nearby island of Rakata shelters some dazzling coral. Taking a short boat ride from Anak Krakatoa, we pulled up to the coast of Rakata, which is edged with steep maroon lava walls. Above the water, the lava rock is barren – below the surface, the contrast is stunning. Lava is particularly nutritious for coral, encouraging the vibrant array of coral hiding underwater. Turtles glide over the coral whilst neon stripped angel fish dart in-between.
Add a visit to Singapore
It’s possible to fly straight into Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, but I’d suggest flying into Singapore. The array of flight options make it more convenient for most, but it also makes a wonderful introduction to southeast Asia. A modern, English-speaking city with a slick transport system, it’s an easy place to explore. If this makes it sound a little sterile – it isn’t.
It’s a city I’m particularly fond of. Singapore may be a modern metropolis, but its skyscrapers are intertwined with temples and colonial architecture. Visit the pastel rows of restored colonial mansions, wander the botanical gardens or sample some of the local dishes in food halls nicknamed ‘hawker markets’.
Visit one of Indonesia’s beaches
I’d recommend finishing a volcano hiking trip to Indonesia with a few nights on the beach. The beach of Sanur, in the south of Bali, is sheltered by a reef, creating a calm cove. This feeds into the area’s general ambience, with relaxed beach bars and some serene sunsets. The food stands out for me, with freshly caught fish sold on tiny stalls dotted along the coast.
If you’re looking for a longer beach stay, I’d suggest islands hopping to Lombok, to the east of Bali, with quieter beaches and some luxe hotels.
When is the best time of year for hiking volcanoes?
For the best experience, late April through to October works well as the skies will be clear and there’s little rain. The months of July and August can be quite busy, especially at weekends when locals take day trips out to the volcanoes.
What do you need to bring?
When visiting a volcano for sunrise, it can be chilly first thing in the morning, with temperatures dipping to 5C (41F). I’d recommend a warm jacket and lots of layers – it gets warmer quite quickly once the sun is up. A scarf or balaclava is also handy to protect your face from ash in the air if it’s windy.
Lava rock is very smooth so can be a little slippery. I would suggest walking shoes with a good grip, and climbing poles to help with steep, uphill sections.
Of course, having your camera close to hand is vital as you’ll have the opportunity to capture some incredible images.
Mat Hall is a Travel Specialist for Audley Travel. Audley trips don’t come off the shelf – they’re tailor-made down to the finest detail. When planning a trip with us, you will speak to a destination specialist who has either lived or travelled extensively within the country or region that you are visiting. They will create a bespoke trip based on your tastes, interests and budget and with an absolute commitment to providing quality travel experiences.
This article was brought to you in partnership with Audley Travel
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Comments Off on A dangerously beautiful hike in British Columbia
Our guest author, Dana Sibilsky takes a hike in the beautiful woods of British Columbia that proves more dangerous than she anticipated when she finds signs of bear activity along the trail.
In 2013, my husband and I made the mutual decision to spice up our lives together and really venture out to see what the world has to offer. With this decision, we agreed to travel at least twice a year; one place within the first half of the year (January-June) and another place within the second half of the year (June-December).
In our journey to explore the world together, we have visited nearly all of the United States and only half of Canada. The world is big and we aren’t even halfway through yet! If you were to ask what is the most beautiful place we’ve been to, it would without a doubt be British Columbia, Canada. If you have ever seen pictures, no photo nor video does this incredible place justice because you simply must be there to FEEL the atmosphere.
Beautiful British Columbia
The air seems cleaner, fresher and easier to breathe with a certain natural “crispness” to it that my husband and I have not found anywhere else in our travels. The water seems to be more pure, more fresh with the same crispness that makes you say to yourself, “This is the way it’s meant to be. What have we done to our world in other places?”
Through our travel in British Columbia, we hiked until we came to our destination at the well-known and popular Three Valley Gap Hotel. Oh my, if you could just see the scenery of nature that surrounds this place. There’s a saying that we kept hearing while visiting that went something like, “Out here, you are normally no further than 20 feet from a bear at all times.” I’m not sure how true it is or if they were just trying to scare us knowing we weren’t locals from around the area.
The wildlife is just as spectacular as the surrounding scenery. My husband and I (but honestly mostly my husband) wanted a closer look at the the wildlife. “What is the point of coming 2000 miles out here if we are just going to sit in a hotel?” he questioned. “Let’s venture out to see what we can never see at home.” With that said, we got a nature tour guide and began to explore the surrounding wooded area at least 3 miles away from the comfort of our hotel. At first, walking through the thickness of the brush and woods was intimidating. What if we saw a bear? What if we ran into a pack of wolves or coyotes? I remembered hearing stories from our friends in Toronto and Mississauga about coyotes running freely through the city in 2010. The more we tracked through the woods, the more comfortable I became until the tour guide stopped us in our tracks.
The look on our guide’s face was the look of fear and nervousness he was trying his best to hide for our sake. “Is everything ok?” I asked him, touching his arm gently in concern. “You look like there is a problem.” With a shaky hand he was trying to control, he pointed to the tree in front of us roughly 10 feet away and said, “Bear.”
My eyes widened as my head quickly snapped to the general direction he was pointing. The tree had claw and teeth marks on it and was missing chunks of bark. Bears do this to mark territory and possession of their favorite trees. These marks usually are present on other trees given by the same bear in a trail. This helps the bear find its way back to wherever it came from.
I was stone cold in fear and to tell you anything different would be a complete lie! I couldn’t move. The thought that I could possibly be standing in or near a bear’s nest shut down all of my motor mechanics such as my ability to walk and open my fear-clenched fists into open palms.
In the distance, I could hear my husband calling me. “Dana!” I heard him say. I wanted to look at him, but the fear was overpowering me. I heard him shout in a louder, projecting voice. This time, my head jerked toward him as the guide and I let out a harsh “SHHHH!” toward him simultaneously. “Are you out of your mind?!” said the guide, “We are in the danger zone of a bear’s or group of bears’ territory! Keep quiet!” he instructed my husband. “We need to go. Now!” the guide said. We didn’t hesitate! The tour guide, my husband and myself double-timed it to the hotel as quickly, quietly and safely as we could.
Make lasting memories
Fast forward 2 years later. Isn’t it interesting that the worst moments in our lives at that particular time turn out to be the most memorable? The moments we believe are the downfall of our day, the ones we say we could do without at the moment they are happening are the very same moments that become the memories we wouldn’t change for anything. The moments we look back on months or years later and can’t help but to laugh and smile to ourselves. Being in a dangerous position having trespassed through bear territory was one of those moments.
If you haven’t visited the British Columbia side of Canada, what are you waiting for? It is, without a shadow of a doubt the most beautiful, refreshing and enlightening adventure you could ever take no matter if you’re alone or with those you love. Just a word of advice: Don’t go exploring without an experienced nature tour guide!
Author bio: Many thanks for this article to Dana Sibilsky, a stay-at-home mother of three prides and joys. When she isn’t giving her family their needed attention, she enjoys traveling and blogging her art on her sites.
Visit the #explorecanada official Canada Tourism Website for more information on things to do in British Columbia and Vancouver Island as well as their social media channels on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
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Photo credit: Dana Sibilsky
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