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Traveller's Tale: Alison's La Gomera Walking Holiday
Alison Carr, a very skilled watercolour painter from the UK, took a walking holiday on La Gomera with us in November. Below, she shares some of her experiences – plus wonderful works of art that she produced along the way.
“The first word that comes to mind about this walking trip on La Gomera is contrast.”
The harbour town of Los Cristianos at the southernmost tip of Tenerife [red: where the nearest airport is] is so busy but then the ferry takes you away to the quiet and quaint San Sebastian on the island of La Gomera
, near enough to be seen but, in some way, a rather different world.
The first walking day takes me up to the hamlet of El Cedro. The road tunnel catapults me into one of the famous rain forests of La Gomera...it’s like a portal! On the other side is steamy, dense woodland with the light coming through in misty shards. It’s truly magical. Flowers and fruit grow in rich abundance and lizards scuttle about in the dry leaves as I walk past.
Being up so high affords sweeping views of the coastline below. It does also put you in touch with the elements, on occasion with a stiff breeze and atmospheric, swirling mists that frame glimpses of dramatic rock formations above and below.
Descending to the little town of Vallehermoso, I hear music and discover that the local bar in the square is a place where people congregate to sing (very heartily) with enthusiastic local guitarists and it’s so cheering to sit amongst them. Another contrast to the quiet of the day in the mountains above the town.
Highlights of the rest of the trip include the hill top village of Chipude with the zigzag path that takes you on up to the highest point of the island, into the National Park and its visitor centre with a comprehensive history of this fascinating place.
There was also an extra day to walk along the coast, a hot and dry walk with little pockets of green in the coves, such as the one at Playa Del Cabrito. Here, a banana plantation (the first I’ve ever seen!) completely takes me by surprise. A dip in the sea on the way back is most welcome.
Returning eventually to San Sebastian, there is a buzz of excitement. It may be a small place with a tiny harbour, but it’s also the place of choice for many great seafaring launches and today sees the teams for the challenge to row across the Atlantic getting their boats ready amongst all the media attention that goes with it. Even a Hollywood film, In the Heart of the Sea
, was shot here. By contrast, I board the steady, safe and slow ferry back to Tenerife and home after a really amazing walking tour of this lovely island of La Gomera.
© Words & artwork by Alison Carr
Amy and her husband randomly had a conversation with a man who spoke highly of Sherpa Expeditions and decided it sounded like a great company. Together with another couple from Idaho, USA, they took off walking in Italy’s Apuane Alps
. Read here their review of the walking holiday with us.
What is your walking history?
All 4 of us live in Idaho, USA, and regularly take advantage of the outdoors of our state including hiking and trail running. My husband and I had done a self-guided hiking tour in Ireland approximately 16 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We prefer to include some adventure and activity into our vacations and hiking / walking is always a great way to see a new place.
Why did you choose to walk in Italy’s Alps?
As we looked at options for our next walking holiday, we knew we wanted to go back to Italy
as it had been 18 years since we’d been. We also wanted a challenging route, the Apuane Alps checked both those boxes. The other couple from Idaho that joined us was ‘up for anything’.
How did you prepare for this walking holiday?
My husband and I had a busy summer of trail running events that set us up pretty well for the trip. On the flipside, our friend had an arthroscopic knee procedure about 2,5 months prior to the trip and did fine. We all had a solid level of activity from the start and really had no concerns. We opted not to do the “long” day as we also recognized we were on vacation!
>> Looking for a walking holiday in Italy as well? Find ideas now.
What was your favourite destination in the Apuane Alps?
We really enjoyed the three nights we stayed in Fornovolasco. We were placed in a freestanding apartment across the river from Rifugio La Buca. We were pleasantly surprised to find a washing machine and had plenty of space to spread out, dry out and enjoy ourselves. Paula is a fantastic hostess and cook and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
Best food & drink?
All the cappuccinos in the mornings to send us on our ways. The cold Italian bierra to greet us after the walk. And the house vino rosso to accompany all the delicious home-cooked meals.
There was no bad meal. We particularly enjoyed the pasta and tiramisu from Paula in Fornovolasco and the breakfasts at Albergo Gorizia were delightful and had a slice of cheese as big as a plate.
What was your biggest surprise of your trip in the Apuane Alps?
The complete lack of tourists! We were at the end of the season and knew this was not one of the more popular hikes, but we truly did not run into any other hikers on the trail. We opted to go to the Wind Cave outside Fonovolasco and did see people there, but otherwise we just enjoyed our interactions with owners of the lodgings.
What aspect of this walking trip did you find most challenging?
The answer to this must be the unrelenting rain on the first day as we set out from Fornaci di Barga. It made for a challenging day with slick trails, some difficulty with way finding and energy level. However, Manuel and Sylvia, the owners of Agriturismo Summer (our lodging for the night), welcomed us with a place to dry out and arranged for some sunshine as we enjoyed some beverages by their pool!
If you are after an activity break with a dose of some salty sea air this winter, consider the great islands and coastline of Europe’s seas and oceans. From windswept cliff-top bicycle rides to more leisurely seaside strolls and walks off the mainstream tourist radar, you will be surprised of the options for a pleasant break during the so-called off season. For the active traveller wanting to visit Europe, winter tours are a great option to consider.
Popular year-round holiday destinations because of their excellent conditions for outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, these places do tend to attract a fair number of travellers during the winter season. Here is an overview of our favourite active winter trips in Europe.
Active Europe: Winter Tours
- Southern Trails of La Gomera | Relatively short walking days exploring the southern trails of La Gomera & leaving time to relax.
- Madeira Island Walking | Year round self guided walk following the Levadas and trails through the dramatic and rugged mountain scenery on the island of Madeira.
- Exploring La Gomera – 11 Days | Experience La Gomera's lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages.
- Walking in the Canaries | Year round walking opportunities exploring the mountains and coasts of Spain's most exotic islands.
- La Palma Island Walking | A walking trip on the Canary Island of La Palma that is designed to make the most of the wonderful natural features of the island based from the two main towns: Santa Cruz and Los llanos de Ariadne.
- Lake Como Rambling | Discover the attractions and beauty of Italy's Lake Como with a selection of walks, ferry crossings and variety of hotel locations.
- Hiking the Vermillion Coast | Discover the coast and mountains along the edge of the Pyrenees. Walk through beautiful seaside towns enjoying famous Banyuls wine and seafood.
- Rambling in the Luberon | Enjoy open fields laden with poppies & wildflowers; centuries old stone huts and beautiful trails of Provence, far from the beaten track.
- Exploring La Gomera – 8 Days | Experience the lush plantations, mountains and whitewashed villages of exotic La Gomera.
- Cycling in Sardinia | Cycle along the spectacular southwest coast of the island biking past white quartz beaches and towering sand dunes, Phoenician Ruins and Ancient Mines.
- In Van Gogh's Footsteps | This walk traces the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh through some of the places that he painted and would have known well. More specifically you will be strolling in Les Alpilles.
- Dingle Peninsula Walk | Experience on foot the history and natural beauty of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.
- The Portuguese Road – Coimbra to Porto | Walk the quieter trails between historical Coimbra and Porto on stage two of the Camino Portuguès.
- Rota Vicentina – the Fishermen’s Trail | Traverse the Atlantic coastline of Portugal to reveal a landscape of deserted beaches, fishing villages and dramatic cliffs on foot.
- Winter Walking in Cyprus | Away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts you will find large areas of natural, unspoilt countryside. Discover woodland, orchards & vineyards interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages.
Or How About these..
Especially during the Christmas period accommodation is in high demand. We therefore advise to secure your winter break as early as possible. To discuss any special requirements or to chat about the best options for you, please feel free to give us a call or send us a message.
Scattered around England and Wales, you may have come across a so-called UK National Trail. Marked by the iconic acorn symbol, these are walking (and sometimes cycling) routes designated by the British Government. The conditions along the trail are looked after by a dedicated officer and are kept maintained to a standard that truly sets them apart.
They are a fantastic option to discover some of the best that the UK has to offer to outdoor enthusiasts as they wind their way through Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks. All being long distance walks
, allow yourself a week or two to step into the outdoors and soak up the British countryside.
With nine out of the 15 trails to choose from, let Sherpa Expeditions be your guide when completing a UK National Trail
The 110 mile Cleveland Way follows a walking route from Helmsley to Filey. What stands out is the experience of half a walk over hill and scarp edges and half along the hilly coastline of the Yorkshire seaside.
The Cotswolds is the epitome of the English countryside. It is no wonder that this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as rolling hills meet with quaint villages that are all preserved in a glorious state.
Hadrian’s Wall Path
Hadrian’s Wall stretches from the aptly named Wallsend in Newcastle Upon Tyne to the quaint village of Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The 84 mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path takes hikers across the rugged countryside of Northern England, following the world’s largest Roman artefact.
Offa’s Dyke Path
Crossing the border between England and Wales more than 10 times, the Offa’s Dyke National Trail path follows some of the finest scenery in both countries for 177 miles (285 km).
The Pennine Way, a mountain journey across the backbone of England, became the very first UK National Trail on April 24th 1965. It is a long, 268 mile (429 km) hike from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in England and down into Scotland.
South Downs Way
Exactly 100 miles of chalk downland walking separates the Victorian seaside town of Eastbourne and the ancient Saxon Capital of Wessex and England – Winchester, forming the South Downs Way. Stretching over a rare large Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Southern Britain, the walk generally follows the chalk (soft limestone) ridge just to the north of the popular seaside towns on the Sussex and Hampshire coast.
South West Coast Path
England’s longest and, many would say, finest trail is the 630 miles long South West Peninsula Coastal Path from Poole to Minehead, of which almost half is in Cornwall.
Following the Thames Path will help you to understand not only the Thames but also why it is the key to the history of London. There is a lot to see: the palaces such as Hampton Court and Syon Park; castles such as Windsor and the Tower of London; multiple bridges each with their own history; and wildlife reserves. And always as the backdrop to it all is the life on the river.
Each year, Scott and his wife try to have one long holiday which incorporates site seeing, cultural interactions and some sort of activity. Being Australians in London and living away from family also means that holidays include time with them when they come to visit from overseas. "Each year I go on a boys’ long weekend hiking trip in the Lake District and on a skiing trip to Europe" says Scott. "I try and dust off my bike annually to participate in the Dunwich Dynamo (overnight bike ride from London to the Suffolk coast)." In the summer of 2019 he embarked on our self guided walking holiday exploring the Hill Top Villages of Medieval Tarn
Why did you choose to walk in Tarn, France?
France is such a diverse country and having worked there previously, I am always up for another trip visiting a different area. I had watched a programme on the Tarn region
so was interested to visit. This walking itinerary also fit into one week
of annual leave and, being time-starved, it was great that Sherpa Expeditions had this trip so we didn’t have to organise a thing!
Being time-starved, it was great that Sherpa Expeditions had this trip so we didn’t have to organise a thing!
How did you prepare for your walking holiday in France?
Not well and probably I should have done more to enjoy the trip in a more relaxed way. To prepare I did a few local weekend walks and also each weekend I participate in Park Run in my local park. Even though the walking days on average are over 20 km, most of the walking is fairly flat except when climbing up into the villages or descending out of them.
Your favourite destination on this Sherpa Expeditions holiday?
Cordes is a good village to start and finish the walk as it has great views, shops & restaurants. But I think the walking each day through moss covered forests and along escarpments seeing the villages come into view are also highlights. I recommend the 1-day Albi extension. If you have an extra day it is worth including to appreciate the Sainte-Cécile Cathedral
and visit the museum dedicated to Toulouse-Lautrec, the famous late 19th century painter who was actually born there.
Best French food and drink?
The two meals we had at our chambre d'hôte accommodation in Vaour and in Bruniquel where you ate with your hosts and other guests. It was like enjoying a 4–5 course dinner party with friends. We did have to use a translate app some of the time but it made for some funny conversation. I found that most restaurants in Tarn do very good value set menu meals as well.
Biggest surprise when walking in southern France?
How quiet it was, we came across very few walkers and a couple of mountain bikers. The trails were very clean and the waymarking excellent.
> Learn more about the Tarn region & view stunning images
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The heat, we had very high temperatures so carried 2 litres of water each daily. The last day was very exposed so we took our time walking back into Cordes where we celebrated with a few well-earned beers.
Curious to learn more about this self guided walking holiday in France? Have a look at the full description of our Hill Top Villages of Medieval Tarn walking trip, or contact our specialist team to discuss your wishes.
> Read the Q&A on Walking in France's Tarn & Aveyron Region
Great Britain, our large island in the North Sea, is surrounded by plenty of smaller isles and islets, all which offer unique opportunities to go for a walking or cycling holiday.
Just the fact that you are on an island gives an instant holiday feeling. On top of that, there is the special journey to reach the island; which often includes a short ferry or boat ride to increase the sensation even more. Island life is usually slow-paced and local people seem more relaxed, hospitable and are often in for a chat. Add to that a constant sea breeze, fresh seafood and stunning ocean vistas and you’ve got yourself the perfect great British island holiday.
Below, we list five of so called British isles that you can choose to discover on several of our cycling and walking holidays.
#1 Isle of Wight
Queen Victoria, despite ruling a quarter of the Earth and being Empress of India, elected to spend her holidays on the Isle of Wight. Here she had a little holiday cottage build called Osborne House - her little pied-à-terre. She painted and sketched the island’s nature, rode horses and went for long walks and swimming.
The island is relatively quick and easily reached from London on a 2-hour train ride plus a ferry or hovercraft trip.
>> Discover the Isle of Wight on foot with the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday
>> Discover the Isle of Wight by bicycle with the Isle of Wight Cycle holiday
Jersey is the biggest island of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey & Jersey who have a separate economic and political life from Great Britain. The island has an ancient history: it was until several thousand years ago attached to mainland France with many Palaeolithic dolmans or burials from that period. It was known about in Roman times and later came under the control of the duke of Brittany during the Viking invasions. All in all, lots of historical and natural interest for the walker or cyclist.
>> Discover Jersey on foot with the Jersey: the Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Jersey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#3 Isle of Man
According to legend, this British island was once ruled by Manannán who would draw his misty cloak around the island to protect it from invaders. One of the principal folk theories about the origin of the name Mann is that it is named after Manannán. The ancient Romans knew of the island and called it Insula Manavi, it is uncertain though whether they conquered the island or not. However, the Manx Gaelic for the island is Ellan Vannin, which just means island of Man.
Learn about Manx history and myths in the Manx Museum in Douglas, your port of arrival.
>> Discover the Isle of Man on foot with the Isle of Man Coastal Path holiday
Known for scenic cliffs and beaches, small towns oozing old world charm, and coastal defences dating from the Palaeolithic period through to the Second World War, Guernsey has been a favourite holiday destination for active adventurers. After a long and turbulent history, Guernsey, similarly to Jersey and other islands, is now a British crown dependency, albeit not part of the UK or of the European Union.
Another island that is part of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey. Each of the small islands have their own character and customs and this is very clear when you visit them all.
>> Discover Guernsey on foot with the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Guernsey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#5 Holy Island
A causeway leads across the sands to Lindisfarne on Holy Island, just off the area of outstanding natural beauty that is the Northumberland Coast. Correct timing is essential here as the causeway gets covered by water for almost two quarters of each day. With Sherpa Expeditions you can overnight at this tiny British island, allowing you plenty of time to roam around.
When you have made it to Holy Island, the 16th Century Lindisfarne fortress and the priory ruins are a must-visit. The castle has even featured in films such as Macbeth and Cul-de-Sac, both by Roman Polanski.
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert’s Way holiday in 8 days
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert's Way holiday in 10 days
Curious to learn more about some of these British isles? Or if you would like to make an enquiry to discover one of the above-mentioned islands on a cycling or walking holiday, please contact the team at our London office.
by resident guide John Millen
If you are considering going on a multi-day walking holiday for the first time, it will often mean a total direction change from your previous vacations where you were sightseeing or relaxing on a beach break.
There is a formality with walking tours in the sense that you will be moving to a new location and accommodation on some or most days. But this kind of holiday gives you so much time and flexibility to do what you please on the way: stopping at viewpoints or visiting gardens, homes, castles, pubs and cafes. You may decide to have a picnic wherever you please, take in the landscapes or talk to the locals. So within the framework of an itinerary there is normally plenty of scope for doing and seeing.
First steps for walkers
As a first step, you may choose to go for a long weekend of walking or doing a couple of day walks in succession to see if you do actually like it!
The key point for a first time walker is to not bite off more than you can chew; try an easy-ish straightforward itinerary which you know you can probably follow. You can then relax and take your time.
By going on a shorter break for a first time walking holiday, you will be able to get used to the walks and whether you may have issues with feet or knees etc. Imagine what it could mean if you were to discover this in a really remote location!
Guided or self guided as a first time walk?
If you are thinking about a self-guided itinerary, look for the lower graded and better waymarked options such as the more southern trails in the UK like The South Downs Way
and The Thames Path
– or if you want to go further afield, the pilgrim routes in Spain
and France. If you have not had much walking experience then it is best to keep to the more simply navigated walks such as these. If you are considering a guided walk
, then the navigation and a lot of the decisions are taken for you. In general though, guided walks are a bit harder and you will need to be mindful about your fitness and pacing within a group.
Pacing implies getting to a certain place by a certain time. Although it is certainly good to have a challenge, an easier itinerary means that you don't have to worry too much about pacing. This ultimately means more time for stops along the way and arriving at your destination more relaxed.
Do I need special gear for a walking trip?
Outdoor gear can be quite expensive. So if you are not sure about whether this type of holiday is for you, on an easier-graded trip you will not necessarily have to invest in expensive outdoor gear. To get an idea of some of the items you may need, check out my tips on What to Take on a Hiking Trip
Maybe you will have half the gear already, trainers/ old walking boots a small rucksack, and a waterproof jacket.
You could look to borrow some gear from friends and family, and then having completed the first holiday, you can decide if you want to do another and invest in some gear.
Perhaps use a locally sourced wooden stick instead of buying walking poles, until you decide that you want to use them or not.
Some first time walkers worry about water intake or toilet stops and keeping hydrated
. Unless it is really hot, it is rarely worth carrying more than two litres with you, and remember each litre weighs a kilogram. Quite a good idea is to try and drink quite a bit to flush your system before you set out each morning or even the night before. Normally on the easier walks you will not be too remote to refill your bottles or to buy a drink or two somewhere. Just make sure that any tap or faucet water is drinkable. It may be worth carrying water sterilizer tablets or a small filter. Some water bottles (more about water bottles here
) come with this feature fitted. Normally there will be some kind of sign if the water in undrinkable.
Walking hours without visiting a toilet may be a worrying proposition but it need not be, just discreetly make use of terrain and vegetation. If you use toilet paper, fold it up and put it in a bag until you can dispose of it in the usual way.
What about navigating a route?
Get used to using a compass for general direction finding before you head off on your walking holiday. There is plenty of online guidance on map/ compass reading and I have written some advice on navigating
before. Download any mapping apps and use any GPS data that the company may provide to help you along, but always carry the printed map, route notes and the name and address of your ultimate stop of the day. If using a phone or GPS, it makes sense to carry an auxiliary power bank and the appropriate leads.
What to pack for my first walking trip?
Don't overburden yourselves on your first walking holiday, but you may wish to carry a small umbrella (for shade as much as for rain), a Thermos flask (most UK B&Bs have tea and coffee making facilities in most rooms,) a small pen knife and maybe a piece of foam or a garden kneeler to sit on during a picnic. Plasters or compeed are useful for any abnormal hot spots developing on your feet.
With such considerations and warm or cold weather clothing packed appropriately for the coming day, you should be able to enjoy your first walking holiday ever!
GGot excited to go and try out the concept of a walking holiday? At Sherpa Expeditions you can choose from a list of options that are great for a first-time walking trip:
England walking holidays for first timers
Scotland walking holidays for first timers
Camino walking holiday for first timers
Or contact our team
of friendly travel consultants to give you personalised advice, by phone or email.
Gail Rast from Australia went on a self guided Coast to Coast walk with us last summer and in this article shares her feedback of the walking holiday across England. Her walking history began around five years ago when she walked the entire Camino Frances – solo!
What is your walking history?
I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors, but became really passionate about walking a little over 5 years ago when I made the decision to walk the Camino Frances. This was fairly ambitious for my first multi-day hike, but I succeeded in walking the entire 800km (solo). Since then I have done a number of multi-day hikes in Australia (including bush-camping) and 2 years ago I did the Portuguese Coastal Camino (260km).
"I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors"
Why did you choose to walk the UK’s Coast to Coast?
I chose the Coast to Coast long distance walk because I have always wanted to see the Lake District and spend some time in the English countryside. Walking is a great way to see and experience new places.
"Walking is a great way to see and experience new places."
How did you prepare for this long distance walk?
I keep myself fit year-round by swimming, walking and other activities such as kayaking. In the lead-up to the Coast to Coast walk, I increased my walking (distance and more difficult terrain) and trained with a pack. I also incorporated weight training into my routine to strengthen my muscles.
What was your favourite destination along the trail?
I genuinely enjoyed the entire Coast to Coast Trail – I loved the diversity of the terrain! Stand-out village for me was Osmotherley, such a pretty place and such friendly locals. I also loved the coastal terrain of St Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay (great way to start and finish!).
Best Food & Drink?
The pub food was hearty and sustained my ravenous appetite at the end of the day! My most memorable meal was braised Cumbrian lamb in a pub in Rosthwaite – it was plentiful and absolutely delicious. I also enjoyed the local ales, and have now developed a taste for boutique gins!
The biggest surprise was the number and variety of animals that shared the trail – so many different types of sheep and cows, as well as horses and numerous birds including pheasants and grouse. As I was walking solo most of the time, they were great company!
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The descents of the Lake District were more challenging than I had imagined. I managed fine with the ascents, but my knees struggled coming down the peaks. But the views and sense of achievement made it absolutely worth it.
Want to experience Wainwright's Coast to Coast for yourself and cross England's Lake District on foot? At Sherpa Expeditions we offer a variety of ways to discover the area, whether on foot or by bike, guided or self guided, check out your options here.
This month, John brings you some very useful travel photography tips. No matter what type of camera you use on your hike or bike ride, these beginner’s tips may help improve the tangible memories of your holiday.
People these days live through their cameras, mainly for gleaning memories and showing off to friends and families on Facebook or Instagram. However, sometimes the habit of taking a picture makes people forget to actually look at or see much of the subject matter. Nowadays even basic mobile phones have good cameras, and only keen photographers tend to carry a big SLR camera. In the middle ground, there are plenty of people using compact cameras. Whatever your preference is to travel with, here are a few travel photography tips that will most likely help you take even better travel photos.
1. Change Your Angle
Most people take the same shot from virtually the same angle as everybody else! Try something different, get low, lie on the ground and look up, get high in a building and look down, take the picture at a rakish angle. Once you have your standard shot try something new. Change your perspective, add blur. Change aperture for depth of field effects.
2. Add Some Effect
With SLRs and compact cameras a selection of graduated filters make interesting and easy effects: accentuating colours, darkening clouds etc. Some mobile phone cameras have effect changes that you can do after you have taken the main picture, for example increasing colour saturation, or turning pictures into paintings. Sometimes it is a bit gimmicky but other times these effects can be very effective. You may have noticed how a lot of travel photos these days look, well a bit too bright, a bit too unworldly: places are marketed with really clean looking shots which are not really 'how it looks'. Some extra advice, all JPEG type pictures can be transformed by degrees in Photoshop or Lightroom type software and it all depends upon what you want to achieve and how long you wish to spend doing it.
3. Filter & Zoom
With single lens reflex cameras, we advise to always carry a polarizing filter with you for those blue days of summer where you can get dramatic cloud or water effects. Just don't leave it on all the time. If you have a zoom lens, try a 'Vari zoom' technique, change to a 1:30 shutter speed, and try to zoom in or out with the lens in an even rate. This travel photography tip will help you get an effect of increasing blur towards the edges and more clarity in the middle, like the subject was rushing towards you. Other simple tips include, breathing lightly on the lens and you have a mist or fog effect that gradually clears as you look through the viewfinder.
4. The Golden Hours
Especially for outdoor photographers, weather conditions play an important role. In good weather, depending upon latitude and time of year, there is always that period when the golden light of dusk or dawn creates beautiful natural saturated colours. If you are staying overnight at a place, try to get up early, there will hardly be anyone about and you will be able to see the sites, although not always allowed to enter them, virtually on your own.
5. Tripods at Night
Before and beyond the Golden Hour, try night shots! If we are talking about how to take good travel photos, tiny but sturdy tripods can be really worthwhile packing to capture sharp night shots. Usually shots of illuminated monuments or cityscapes are usually better at dusk or dawn, just as the lights are going on or off, and before it is too dark altogether. There are tripods available even for mobile phones and of course for SLR and compact cameras.
Set your camera for the best resolution possible, memory space is comparatively cheap these days and there is nothing worse than having a superb shot and realizing that you cannot blow it up at all, unless the effect that you want to portray is that of Lego bricks!
7. A Clean Lens
John’s seventh travel photography tip is to keep things clean: carry a lens-cloth and keep your lenses clean. Mobile phone lenses often acquire a film of grime very quickly. SLRs have lens caps so that is easier, compacts often have retracting lenses that can suck dust into them if you are not too careful. Also, the sensor should be kept clean: on SLRs and some compact cameras, hair and dust can get trapped over the image sensor. This means they will appear in virtually every photograph you take in some form. Get your sensor carefully cleaned!
8. The Obvious!
Perhaps an obvious tip, not just for outdoor photographers, but useful at any moment really. How many times are you taking photographs and then at the critical time your battery fails or you run out of memory space? Carry a spare battery, a wireless phone or camera charger and memory card at all times.
My early days of cycling and mountain walking led me very quickly to realise the value of wearing sunglasses. Cycling fast, I had various run-ins with bees and flies with a combined impact speed probably around 45mph! Then there have been those times on cycling holidays when a series of tiny fly flew into my eyes and started to dissolve leaving me to have to emergency-stop and flush the critter out before I swerved to the wrong side of the road. My early days on walking holidays in the mountains with inadequate sun protection resulted in squinty, tired and gritty feeling eyes. Soon I was investing in decent cycling sunglasses!
One should note at this stage that when we talk of sunglasses, very few brands these days are actually made of glass. Ray Ban, Persol and Vuarnet, for example still make lovely sunglasses from glass, but these may not be always so good for sporting activities; being heavier on the nose bridge than plastics. There is also the slight worry that a glass lens could break or chip in sport and get into the eyes although this is highly unlikely. Most sports sunglasses are a type of plastic such as silicon or Perspex. Generally speaking these are very strong materials, although not necessarily very resistant to scratching. Oakley were one of the companies that pioneered this manufacture and once boasted ‘bullet proof technology lenses at 10 metres’, their advertisement showing the pock marking on their lenses after a shotgun blast impact, rather than a sniper rifle! Oakley make well-loved sports glasses but may not perform or last as well as models made by manufacturers such as Julbo, Enduro, Tifosi and the likes, for a third of the price. So much for bullet proof protection, my beloved Oakleys eventually fell apart!
Nevertheless, it is probably wise not to buy really cheap shades, slight optical imperfections can in the short-term cause headaches and may do lasting damage in the long-term. Also, importantly the lenses should be shown to block harmful UVA and UVB blue light as this has proven to cause cataracts and retinal problems.
You don’t have to buy an expensive pair of glasses for cycling or hiking, as long as perhaps they are from a reliable make, have UV protection and are manufactured for the category of light that you are going to expose yourself to. Reasonable specification glasses will normally be marked on the frames or box with ‘Category’ (or CAT) 0 to 4: indicating the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of the lenses. So, Category 0 is like a safety glass, or a clear cycling glass for grey weather and have a VLT of 80-100% whereas a CAT 3 pair have a VLT of 8-17%, which is fine for most walkers or cyclists. CAT 4 glasses are designed for long periods on snow and ice or in bright conditions such as a beach and have a VLT at 3-8%. CAT 4 sunglasses are provided by manufacturers such as Julbo and Vuarnet – both with side pieces or wrap rounds and the latter still using some optically correct glass lenses.
Especially for cyclists it is worth considering a pair of polarised sunglasses. Ordinary tinted sunglass lenses only cut down on ambient light that reaches the eye, or VLT. However by their very nature, they cannot block glare. Only polarised lenses can block glare and not having that option could be dangerous if you are riding your bike.
Tests show that the most protective sunglasses are wrap rounds that protect the eyes from incidental ambient light entering from the side. The wrap round can either be a continuation of the lens, or plastic frame or more traditionally, leather side pieces. Quite a number of cycling shades now have some cut-outs of lens material between the frames and the lens, although this may slightly increase incidental light. The real advantage of this for cycling is that it ventilates and defogs the glasses when you are cycling or running which is really useful. Examples include the expensive Oakley Jawbreaker and the much cheaper Endura Mullet.
There is a fashion at the moment for lenses to have a tint that is as reflective as a shaving mirror. However, even on expensive glasses, mirrored tints can easily scratch and even wear off. A lot of manufacturers have their own style of tint, but fundamentally the most common lens colours are brown, then green, then grey. This is because these lenses are 'colour neutral'- they cut down on overall brightness without distorting colours thereby accentuating relief. Quite a few cycling sunglasses have a range of interchangeable lenses with different tints that can be used in different riding conditions. Oakley and Rudy Project do this at the top end and Endura, Maddison, DHB, Tifosi and others do so at the more economical end. Of course it can be a bit fiddly changing lenses, so for some people photo-chromatic lenses maybe a way forward as they darken or lighten depending upon light intensity (for instance: Julbo Aero bike glasses).
No matter how good the lenses are, it won’t help if the frames let you down - they are after all, the support for the structure. Make sure that when you try the glasses that they fit well and you don’t have to keep sliding them up the bridge of your nose like Agnes does with her glasses in Mrs Brown’s Boys. A lot of the sporting shades do have rubberised ear and nose pieces which make them more secure and stop them from bouncing around when you are doing sports. Frames bend out and fatigue; if you keep them on the top of your head when you are not using them, they will tend to overstretch and then they never fit snuggly anymore. Instead, keep them in a case clipped to your rucksack if walking and if you are not using them while cycling, do what the cycle pros do, and insert them upside down- sliding the arms through the helmet ventilation slots. Watch out also for sunglasses with ‘crystal’ frames (clear transparent plastic) as clear frame can cause light refraction at certain angles around the lens creating dazzle in your eyes.
The hinges of sunglasses will normally break under any kind of stress. Metal frames are more durable than plastic ones and some have a spring induction dampener to prevent overstraining.
Cleaning & Caring of Your Sunglasses
Sunglasses need cleaning regularly especially after cycling or walking when they may be covered in sweat-salt, sun cream, sand particles or even the tiny flies I mentioned earlier. Wash them in warm soapy water, then rinse off. Use the manufacturer’s microfibre wipe for gentle wiping off smears and breathe on the lenses and wipe for polishing. Wash the microfibre wipe regularly. Any screws keep tight, but don’t over tighten.
The more expensive glasses can be made to a prescription order at some expense. Of course, some manufacturers still produce clip-on sun lenses to go onto the frame of your standard glasses.
Some More Thoughts
Many people, such as myself, normally carry two pairs of sunglasses, just in case one pair gets sat on, gets blown off my face or has a lens or frame failure. However, I have decided not to have such an expensive pair for outdoor activities having wiped out a few pairs over the years. I just leave a nice pair of glass-lens & folding Ray Bans in my main bag for après action, chilling and sightseeing use. Sometimes walking around with cycling glasses on, just makes you look too much like a space cadet!
Just to point out that the only sunglasses that lasted me more than 10 years have been a solid pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers, with large metal hinges, and a pair of Rudy Project cycling and running glasses. There are also my beloved heavy duty Vuarnet Alpine glasses that have been with me for 15 years and I just can’t quite get rid of, even though I maybe should..!
For more of John’s Gear Matters blog articles on topics like knives & multitools, water bottles, gaiters and much more, have a look at the complete Gear Matters blog articles overview.
If you have any questions on what gear you should bring on your walking or cycling holiday, please do get in touch with John and the rest of the Sherpa team. We are happy to assist you with specific questions.