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Sunset Photography Flight

Photographing in low light scenarios like a sunrise or sunset may be difficult enough, so what happens when you try and photograph from an airplane during a sunset flight over Toronto?

I found this out in my last flight over the downtown core with FlyGTA. I’ve received a number of questions on what my settings were when I shot certain photos so I hope to go through all of them in this post. If you have additional questions, please feel free to comment on this post below.

Things to Consider

Time of Day

Time of day will dictate how much light you have going to your sensor. Taking photos from an airplane will be much easier when you have more light available, so consider this when you decide on when to go.

CN Tower and Roger’s Centre. ISO 200, 1/400 sec., f/8.0.

Flying over the city during the day (above) provides enough light for a fast shutter speed. In contrast, shooting in the evening (below) will require a higher ISO and/or shallower depth of field to achieve the same shutter speed.

The CN Tower and city from above. ISO 800, 1/125 sec., f/2.8.

My last flight was supposed to be a flight over the downtown core shortly before the sun was to set below the horizon. However due to various circumstances, our flight time got pushed back and we ended up flying well past this time.

The airplane we took for the sunset flight over the city.

The sun had already set a while before we went up in the air, making our flight more of a blue-hour session. This may make things more difficult, but it also makes things more interesting. Why? Because at a certain point in the evening, the city lights will have turned on, making the landscape even more colourful to shoot.

The Bloor viaduct lights up in purple down below. ISO 800, 1/80 sec., f/2.8.

Lenses

I wondered about this too before my first flight, since I had no idea how close we would be to any buildings, the CN Tower, or anything else.

I opted to bring my 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens, and my 20mm f/1.8 wide angle lens in case I wanted to capture the huge expanse of land you get to see while you’re up there. During another flight, I took with me my 70-200mm f/2.8, which enables me to capture objects further away, or closer objects in more detail.

The Toronto FC played against the Ottawa Redbacks at the BMO Field seen above. ISO 800, 1/80 sec., f/2.8.

For a sunset flight, you’ll want a fast lens (lower f-number) since you will need to open up your aperture to get in as much light as possible. Keep in mind though, that if you want an entire building in focus from the top to somewhere near the ground, you’ll probably want to use a higher f-stop like f/8 or f/10, forcing you to boost your ISO higher than you may want.

20mm f/1.8

Great lens if you want to capture the large expanse of land or water that you can see from above. Keep in mind since this covers a wide angle, you will more than likely catch the wing in your photo too. If that’s your intention, that’s fine—otherwise you’ll need to crop it out afterwards. With a wide angle lens, objects will be much smaller in your photo as well.

The west shores of Toronto with Ontario place seen at the bottom of the image. ISO 800, 1/80 sec., f/2.8.

24-70mm f/2.8

This is probably the optimal lens to use in this case as it’s the most versatile. You have plenty of room with your zoom, and it’s a fast lens at f/2.8. If it’s only one lens you carry on, I would recommend this lens.

Swimming pool in the beaches. ISO 800, 1/125 sec., f/2.8.

70-200mm f/2.8

This is another possible lens to use, but it’s very limiting because you see everything so close up. Use this if you’re after the details of the city in the sunset. For me, I would find it too limiting within a city environment, which is why I left it out of my bag during my sunset shoot. When I flew over a wide expanse of farmland and water, however, I found this lens to be more useful.

A pool sits in the middle of greenery. ISO 400, 1/400 sec., f/9.0.

Camera Settings

Camera settings will vary depending on the available light. As a general guideline though, for a sunset flight over the city, you’ll need to keep your ISO high and shutter speed fairly fast.

The best way to figure this out is to see the photos themselves. Let’s take a look at the following photos and settings to see what happened.

The downtown core. ISO800, 1/80 sec., f/2.8.

With a shutter speed of 1/80sec. you can see that everything is slightly blurred—take a look at the Sun Life Financial lettering. The airplane was moving so fast that a shutter speed of 1/80sec. wasn’t fast enough to freeze the moment.

To compensate for this, I should have raised my shutter speed to something like 1/200 or even faster. But if I did that, I would have to change my ISO or aperture to compensate for the lack of light coming in from the faster shutter speed.

During my flight, I didn’t change my ISO value of 800 simply because it would have taken me too long to change the value back and forth depending on my scene. I paid the price because of this, as you can see.

What could I have done? I could have set my camera to auto ISO to a maximum value of 800 or even 1600. Then with my shooting mode set to shutter priority and shutter speed to about 1/200, my aperture and ISO values would be constantly changing depending on the scene in front of me. I would have achieved better results this way.

Many of these photos were still brightened up in Lightroom afterwards to keep the shadows from being too dark.

Aura stands tall. ISO 800, 1/125 sec., f/2.8.

This photo above was taken at a shutter speed of around 1/125sec. which was fast enough to get a relatively sharp subject. Depending on if the plane is moving fast or if it’s flying on a curve, you can still get away with a relatively slower shutter speed. To minimize the risk though, I’d stick with a shutter speed of about 1/200 at the very least.

Composition

You can have a lot of fun with composition inside an airplane. It’s not something you normally see, so take advantage of the fact that you’re there and use what is there to your advantage.

Taking photos through the window.

Shooting without a window between our subject and lens would be the ideal circumstance since windows will lower the light coming in, have scratches that may get in the way, and almost certainly will produce reflections in the evening. However in this case, we had to manage with what we were given.

Frame your subject using the window.

Our first instinct is to shoot out the window to get a clear shot of the outdoors. However, an equally pleasing composition might be if you were to include the window in your photo, which evokes a feeling of being right there inside the plane. Try it out next time and you’ll see.

Enjoying the sunset. Taken with the 20mm f/1.8.

Someone else in the plane with you? Feel free to use them as a subject in your photo (granted they are OK with it). A wider lens will enable you to get everybody in the plane.

Taking a photo of the CN Tower on your mobile phone.

Taking a picture of them as they take a picture of the outside can be interesting if creatively done—just remember to expose for the brightest part of the subject, which in this case was the screen on the phone she was using to take the picture outside.

Champagne and flying!

Or if you’re celebrating a special moment, don’t forget to capture that with the city in the backdrop.

Focus on the foreground element while keeping the background blurred but still recognizable.

Sometimes you have no choice but to include the wing, or part of the wing in your photo. If that’s the case, try focusing on the wing and have something interesting in the background. In the photo above, although the CN Tower and Rogers Centre are blurred, you’re still able to recognize the two iconic Toronto structures.

The pilot and his sunglasses.

And finally, you can’t forget about the pilot and dashboard. The latter lights up at night, offering a great subject matter as well. In the photo above, I let the dashboard lights and sunset lights take centre stage while keeping everything else darker.

The CN Tower divides the screen.

There’s lots of opportunities for creativity when you’re up there even though the light may be dim. Be mindful of your settings and be creative. If you have any other questions, or want to offer some more creative ideas, please feel free to comment below and let me know your experiences with a sunset photography session inside an airplane.

It’s hard being a photographer in the mountains

If you’re a photographer that loves to take sunrise and sunset photos, there’s no better place than to take them with powerful mountains and serene water as a backdrop. That’s what I loved doing during my brief stay in Banff and Jasper, Alberta. The scenery is so majestic and serene you really can’t take a bad photograph there.

As a photographer who loves the sun, my goal was to try and take as many sunrises and sunsets as I could. While I knew I couldn’t do this on a daily basis, I certainly tried as many times as I could.

Lake Minnewanka sunrise.

Lake Minnewanka sunrise. iPhone 6 Plus long exposure.

What I didn’t know until shortly before heading over there, was that the summer days are very long. The sun rises at 5:30am and doesn’t set below the horizon until at least 10pm. Even at 11pm, you still get that gorgeous blue hue in the sky. This is great if you love spending the days outdoors—which is what I did—but after a full day of hiking, you really do want to get some rest.

It was difficult at times, but I did do my fair share of sunrise and sunset shoots while in Alberta—sometimes waking up as early as 4:30am to drive to a lake. I can’t say that I came back with something dramatic and eye-opening as the weather didn’t cooperate with me most days, but I did enjoy being out there in the fresh air early in the morning. It is rather calming. Those days when I did both a sunset shoot and sunrise shoot the next day were pretty tiring to say the least. But the joy of being able to see this is what motivates me to get up so early and stay up so late.

Alpenglow on Mt. Rundle, Vermillion Lake 2, Banff National Park

Alpenglow on Mt. Rundle, Vermillion Lake 2, Banff National Park. iPhone 6 Plus.

As a bonus, a lot of the wildlife tend to be out during the wee hours of the morning and late at night. Those were the times when I got to see the mule deers, long horn sheep, bears, and more. It was an exciting drive to see animals popping up unexpectedly on the side of the road. You have to be extra cautious at this time too since the low-light may make it harder for you to see the wildlife.

Had I been living in the area though, this would be a whole different story as I would be able to take my time and spread out my sunrise and sunset shoots. With my limited stay of 10 days, I was eager than ever to get a great show of lights.

I wasn’t able to get one this time, but perhaps this means I’ll just have to go back at another time!

Silhouette by the sunset

When you’re faced with taking a photo against the sun, you’re subjects will no doubt be in the shadows. If you can’t do a whole lot with where the sun is in your frame, work with it until you get a pleasing image.

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/6.3, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/6.3, ISO 400, 24mm

I intentionally took this photo so that the foreground would be in the shadows while the sailboats would be somewhat lit up from what was remaining of the sunlight.

The sailboats turned out a little darker than I had wanted to in the original image, so I did end up brightening the area up a little in Lightroom. But this is the image that I was envisioning in my head, so I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. I do like the details of the foreground that are lit up by the water in the background, in addition to the wispy clouds contrasting against the gorgeous blue and orange colours. It was a dreamy sunset, which made me happy I made the effort to get out this evening!

The sun shines in Ikebukuro

I was out shopping one fine early evening in Tokyo when I came to this roadway with people walking down it. Normally it would have been just a regular pedestrian-filled road, but I soon realized the sun peeking out of the clouds every-so-often, shining its glorious rays right down the centre of the street. The golden light it emitted when it did shine down the street was magnificent.

I only had a few short minutes to try and capture this golden light because the clouds would cover the sun after a short time. It was just one of those days where I was happy I had my camera with me that day.

Nikon D800, 1/4000 sec., f/2.8, ISO 400, 56mm

Nikon D800, 1/4000 sec., f/2.8, ISO 400, 56mm

What do you bring on your walks?

When I go out travelling, I often like to take my full gear with me because you never know what to expect. Even on casual walking days like when I took this photo above, I always loved to carry my Nikon along with my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at a minimum. This combination, however, isn’t always so portable, let alone light on my shoulders.

With the advent of mirrorless cameras though, I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a better option for me to take on these casual walks. It’s something to consider one of these days.

What camera do you bring on your photo-walks? What lenses do you like to use? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to suggest any great walk-around cameras that you like.

How to take photos of sunrises and sunsets

Sunrises and Sunsets

Sunrises and sunsets are one of the most favourite times of the day to photograph for many landscape photographers. The colours are warm and golden, the quality of light is just right, and really, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the first light or the last light of the day pass the horizon. Taking photos during this time is not very difficult, but there are a few things you should consider when doing so. This post will give you some tips on how to shoot that glorious sunrise or sunset.

How to take photos of sunrises and sunsets

How to take photos of sunrises and sunsets

Suggested Gear

I’ve listed my gear suggestions for shooting a sunrise or sunset below. While not all of these are requirements, each one serves a purpose and should be considered. I’ll explain each one in detail further below.

  1. Camera with RAW capture capabilities
  2. Tripod
  3. Shutter release cable
  4. Variety of lenses to meet your creative needs (bringing both a wide and a telephoto lens is ideal)

Shooting Tips

1. Always plan ahead

Sunrises and sunsets don’t last forever. In fact, the light changes so fast during this time that it’s crucial that you know what you’re doing if you don’t want to miss that golden moment. Planning ahead of time will always prepare you for the least expected and that’s always a good thing. Scout the location of your shoot well before your shoot. This will give you a good idea on composition and what’s around the area. If you want to find out exactly where the sun will rise or set on any particular day, there are several apps that will tell you this: Photopills, The Photographer’s Ephimeris, and more.

Selecting the exact point for a photoshoot

Selecting the exact point for a photoshoot using The Photographer’s Ephemeris

2. Focus

It’s important to keep your subject matter crisp, especially during this low-light period. If you have your camera set to automatically focus within a designated area of your frame, make sure to turn that function off and switch it to auto-focus single. This will make your camera focus on one specific area within your frame, wherever you choose it to be. This is much better than having the camera choose the focus point for you.

Your camera may have a hard time focusing if there’s not enough contrast within your frame. If this happens, switch to manual mode and focus yourself. Or, use Live View mode to see if you can pinpoint the focus that way.

3. Change your white balance from auto

If you have your camera set to Auto White Balance, take it off, and set it to something else so you can control how the image looks, and not rely on your camera. If you shoot in JPG, you won’t be able to change this afterwards, so it’s even more important for you to change this before shooting. For RAW shooters, you can change this after in post, but why do that when you can start off with the right white-balance mode? Typically for sunrises and sunsets, I like to use the Daylight mode. This gives the right amount of warmth to my images. If you really want to warm things up, try changing it to Shade or Cloudy. Experiment to your liking.

4. Speed up your camera

Cameras have many advanced features that are great for certain purposes. However, sometimes these settings can slow your camera from processing these files. For example, if you like to take long exposures, you may have the Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting turned on. This will increase the amount of time needed to process each shot, preventing you from taking the next one. Turn this feature off.

5. Use a tripod

I always use my tripod during sunrise and sunset shoots. It stabilizes my camera and helps me get sharp images. The period surrounding sunrises and sunsets are quite dim so a tripod is highly recommended, especially if you’re going to use a telephoto lens.

Using a tripod for both my Nikon and my iPhone when taking a sunrise photo

Using a tripod for both my Nikon and my iPhone when taking a sunrise photo

6. Use a shutter-release cable

A shutter release cable hooks into your camera’s 10-pin connector if you have one. This is a separate cable that allows you to release the shutter without having you press down on the shutter button itself, further eliminating any blurriness in your photos from camera shake. It’s not a necessity, but it does help in many cases.

Composition Tips

1. Horizon placement

You can refer to my previous post here on the difference your placement of the horizon makes on your photos. It does make a big difference so get to know when you want to place the horizon in certain areas of your picture.

As a summary:

  • Placing the horizon on the top 1/3 of your picture will evoke a sense of intimacy with your subject matter as the foreground takes precedence in your frame.
  • Placing the horizon in the centre of the picture works well when done right, giving a sense of symmetry and balance.
  • Placing the horizon in the bottom 1/3 of your picture will give a sense of vastness and emptiness as you fill the frame with the sky and clouds.

2. Change focal lengths

While changing lenses during your sunrise and sunset shots may take you away from taking photos for that moment, it’s worth experimenting with various focal lengths to get a little variety in your photos. I have a number of lenses in my collection, but the two I always use are the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the 24-70 f/2.8, with the 14-24mm f/2.8 coming in a close third.

Using a wide angle lens on the left gives a different feel than using a telephoto lens, as seen on the right.

Using a wide angle lens on the left gives a different feel than using a telephoto lens, as seen on the right.

Taking a wide shot gives a great view of the entire scene letting the viewers see the effects of the sun within the rest of your photo. In contrast, zooming in on the subject gives you more details so you can fully appreciate the sunlight shining on your subject. Or, if you zoom in right on the sun, that will also make for some dramatic imagery. Just be careful not to stare at it for too long!

Exposure Tips

I once read that during a sunrise and sunset shoot, there is never really a “correct” exposure. What the person meant by this is that many different exposures can work during this time—it all just depends on what you want to evoke from your image.

1. Silhouettes

A common thing to do is to make your subjects a silhouette with the glorious colours in the backdrop taking centre stage. Expose for the brighter areas of your image to get this effect.

Nikon D200, 200mm, 1/500 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100

Nikon D200, 200mm, 1/500 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100

2. Don’t expose directly into the sun

If you set your exposure directly to the sun, you’ll get an image with lots of dark shadow areas, and the ball of sun, a muddy gray colour. We all know the sun is a big bright ball of light so having this as the brightest part of your final image is reasonably acceptable in most cases. Instead, expose somewhere just slightly darker than the brightest part of the sun so the shadows don’t get too dark and the highlights aren’t all blown away.

3. Bracket your shots

Use your bracketing mode to automatically create different exposures. If you let the camera decide the best exposure, use your bracketing mode to create another image 1 stop under-exposed or 1 stop over-exposed. It’s a quick way to get three different types of images without fiddling with your settings so much.


 

There may be a lot of information here, but if you take things one step at a time and think through your shots, you’ll learn to quickly adapt accordingly and things like horizon placements and exposures will come naturally.

Do you have any additional tips you can add for taking sunrise and sunset photos? Let me know in the comments below!

Taku’s Top 5 Winter Photography Favourites

As of 6:45pm, March 20, winter is officially over, however it may not feel like it with the current cold front passing by our city this week. To recap this wonderful season that offered a number of prime photo opportunities, I’ve rounded my top five favourite photos that I took with my Nikon over this winter season.

If you’ve been following my blog throughout the winter, or are following me on Instagram @smaku or @theSmaku, then you may have noticed some of these photos pop up there. I’m also uploading select photos on my Flickr account as well.

Number 5

This photo was taken in early December when Christmas lights were just being turned on, and everybody was getting into the festive spirit. On my way home from the Christmas Market, I took a quick detour to City Hall to see what was happening. The semi-long exposure of 0.8 seconds made some skaters a blur, while those who stood still remained in focus. All lights were on, and I made sure to include the city’s Christmas tree in this frame too. I opted to include that spotlight on the top left, to add some more excitement to the top half of this frame. I just can’t help but feel a little festive whenever I see this.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who liked this photo as city councillor Norm Kelly liked it enough to retweet it to everybody.

0.8 sec. at f/20, ISO 800, 24mm

0.8 sec. at f/20, ISO 800, 24mm

 Number 4

This one was taken on the same day as number 5! Visiting the Distillery District Christmas Market for the first time, I wanted to really capture the festive spirit and business of the event. I had to prop my tripod right in the middle of the walkway, getting my camera high enough above everybody’s heads to really capture this mood. I think it turned out rather nice; you can feel the warmth from the halogen Christmas lights. Since this was a long exposure, by chance, I happened to capture three flashed coming from different places. As an added bonus, I loved how this one person in the crowd stood still enough so that I could capture her on her phone, perhaps Instagramming all of this!

Three flashes a charm?

Three flashes a charm?

Number 3

This winter had no shortages of sunrise shoots. While some of them were a little lacklustre, others proved to be very rewarding. This day was one of them when the colours were so vibrant it really made you second guess what was happening here. This 6 second long exposure created a different texture to Lake Ontario, further adding to that special morning glow that you can only get with a sunrise.

Nikon D800, 70mm, f/14, 6.0 sec., ISO 100, B+W 6-stop ND filter

Nikon D800, 70mm, f/14, 6.0 sec., ISO 100, B+W 6-stop ND filter

Number 2

Surprisingly, one of my favourites of the season is not even a colour photo! I really like the tone of this with its faded shadows. The intricate details of the plants in the foreground silhouetted against the brightly lit waters of the background make this for me. That ball of sun right in the middle also makes this a special moment that you know it wasn’t taken any time during the day.

Nikon D800, 1/20sec., f/9.0, ISO100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/20sec., f/9.0, ISO100, 70mm

Number 1B

This one would have to be my favourite photo taken with the full sun in the frame. The patchy fog on top of Lake Ontario really makes you feel the frigidness of that morning. I was lucky those colours were so vibrant that day as well. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and one that I definitely didn’t want to spend in bed!

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec., ISO 100, f/9.0, 24mm, +2/3 EV

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec., ISO 100, f/9.0, 24mm, +2/3 EV

Number 1A

This would be my favourite landscape photo where you can see the city within the frame. That morning was almost a bust since the clouds were so thick near the horizon. I really didn’t think I would get any colour out of Mother Nature. But as I waited a little more, the clouds broke open ever so slightly, allowing some magical morning light to come through. That red on the side was out of this world, so to speak. It’s mornings like this that really make waking up so early worthwhile.

Nikon D800, 24mm, f/8.0, ISO 100, 30 sec., 6-stop ND filter

Nikon D800, 24mm, f/8.0, ISO 100, 30 sec., 6-stop ND filter

Those are my top 5 favourite winter photos for 2014. I hope you enjoyed them! I believe Both #1 photos I hadn’t even posted anywhere so this may very well be the first time you’ve seen them! Just another reason for you all to keep following me on my blog. 🙂

Just enter your email down below at the bottom of the page, and you’ll get my daily post right in your inbox.

Have you been out to take photos this winter season? Where was your favourite one taken? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunrises are easier to photograph

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been getting up early to catch the sun rise above the horizon on the shores of Lake Ontario. It wasn’t easy waking up at 5am some days, but let me tell you, more often than not, I find it easier to take photos of sunrises than sunsets. And here’s why.

The horizon

The glow of the morning sun just above the horizon

In order to take any photos of sunrises or sunsets, you have to be present at that time. I’ve often heard many photographers say that they like to take sunset photos much more than sunrise photos because of the sheer fact that they are always awake at that time. Well, for the most of us, that’s true.

I can’t however, always say that it’s easier to take sunset photos because that means I have to schedule my day around this time. If I’m out and about running errands or doing something else, I may not necessarily be able to make it to that sunset shoot. And as our schedules get increasingly busier and busier, we are often left wanting more time to just relax to ourselves, making it even harder to want to go to that shoot to begin with.

Sunrises, however, are a completely different animal. Why? Because 99% of the time, we are always doing the same thing before the sun rises: sleeping. What do we need to do to go take those sunrise shots? Wake up! It’s really that easy. No need to reschedule appointments, rush traffic, or miss dinner.

Admittedly it does take that extra effort of waking up extra early but I find it very rewarding to see that sun rise amidst the cool morning breeze. In fact, there’s nothing more eye-opening than seeing Mother Nature at her best.

The sun rise

The sun rises at the U-Turn

 

Over the last few weeks I made it an effort to catch those morning glows. Some days I was more successful than others—weather-wise. During heavily overcast periods you don’t get that brilliant glow of the morning sun. Instead if you’re lucky, you’ll get some dramatic clouds rolling in with a hint of the sun behind it. But other days I’ve witnessed some magical moments that I hoped I was able to show with my photography.

The white rise of the sun, fog, and clouds.

The white rise of the sun, fog, and clouds.

Next time, why not wake up just a little earlier and see what surprises await you?

Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Part of my Fijiweek of blog posts, here’s a review of Fiji’s 5-star Likuliku Lagoon Resort, which I was very fortunate to visit last year. For additional photos of Fiji and its beauty, please head over to my Fantastic Fiji gallery.

Welcome to Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Welcome to Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Even before stepping onto the island, you know you’re in for a treat. With guitar in hand, and a trio of singers welcoming you as your boat approaches the beach, you’ve come to a paradise island, leaving any stress and worries behind you in that gentle breeze of the south pacific.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort is just that. Paradise. Situated on the northwest edge of Malolo Island, the only way to get here is by boat (speedboat or catamaran), a seaplane, or via a private helicopter. Yes, this resort has its own helipad. At about 25km away from Port Denarau on the main island of Fiji, a direct catamaran trip will take you there in 55min, or in about 2 hours via stops at other island resorts. If you want a free tour of the surrounding islands of Fiji, opt for the indirect trip and relax for the 2 hours. It’s well worth it just for the sights.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort is a couples-only resort (no children under the age of 17), managed by a 100% Fijian-owned company, Ahura Resorts, which also manages the neighbouring resort for families, Malolo Island Resort, located just a stone’s throw away. Likuliku Lagoon Resort has 45 bures in all: 10 Overwater, 18 Deluxe Beachfront, 14 Beachfront, and 3 Garden Beachfronts.

The lobby of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The lobby of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Upon arrival, you are escorted off the boat and taken to the lobby where you are seated separately from other parties, and welcomed with a refreshing tropical drink and traditional Fijian handmade necklace. I sat there in the lobby admiring the openness and the calmness of the island, and instantly knew it was going to be a great six days ahead of us.

The Entrance

I have to note this in its own section because I thought it added so much to the overall impression of each bure that we stayed in. Upon entering the bure, the staff at Likuliku Lagoon Resort make it so that it’s as inviting and cozy for their guests as possible. And by this, I mean upon entering, rather than feeling like you are entering in another hotel room, it feels like you’re almost entering in someone’s abode—a rather nice one at that. Traditional Fijian music is playing softly in the background, lights are dimly lit, and windows are open a touch. They all add to the beautiful ambiance that welcomes you as you open that door for the first time. It’s a small touch, but one that made a great impression on us.

What a warm welcome to your room!

What a warm welcome to your room!

Deluxe Beachfront Bure

We booked the first three nights of our stay in one of Likuliku Lagoon Resort’s spacious Deluxe Beachfront Bure. Before booking, I checked the layout of the resort online, and requested to have a bure in this general area. While they wouldn’t guarantee anything, they said they would accommodate as best as they can. And they did. The bure was right in the area that I had asked for.

The layout of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The layout of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

These Deluxe Beachfront Bures are more than one can ask for. Divided into two sections, on the outside directly fronting the beach, each comes with a private plunge pool and a covered daybed spanning 64 sq. ft. of space. The 237 sq. ft. deck is also more than one can ask for, if you like to just rest on one of their lounge chairs. The inside of the bure, at 613 sq. ft., is a spacious and luxuriously appointed suite with a queen sized bed, oversized couches with plenty of room to lounge around on, and a bathroom suite fit for royalty that comes with a large private outdoor shower space—an indoor shower is also included, but nothing says paradise than showering in the outdoors!

The bathroom of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The bathroom of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The terrace of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The terrace of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The plunge pool of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The plunge pool of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow overlooking the beach just steps away

Each bure has enough privacy around them that you don’t feel too crowded at all. With the beach being literally steps away, there’s really not much more that a couple could ask for in a beachfront bure.

The Cookie Jar

When we first arrived at the bure, the staff kindly gave us a tour. He also mentioned that there is a cookie jar in the cupboard that will be replenished on a daily basis. I didn’t think twice of this, until I had one of those cookies. They were oh so heavenly good. I don’t know whether it was the sweetness of the cookie playing against the saltiness of the sea water, or whether Fijian flour is different from ours in Canada, but you for sure could not just stop at one. That’s when I realized it actually would be necessary to replenish them daily!

The daybed with the cookie jar.

The daybed with the cookie jar.

The View

While it was overcast for the first two and a half days into our trip, it did manage to clear up nearing the end of our stay in this bure. Despite this, I remember the sunset one evening on a cloudy day was one of the most majestic I’ve seen yet. These colours engulfed the entire landscape all around you. Everything turned to an orange-red hue as if you were wearing some sort of filtered sunglasses. The only other time I’ve ever seen such a beautiful sunset was on Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

The view from just outside the terrace of our Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The view from just outside the terrace of our Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

A breathtaking view of the beach just outside our Deluxe Beachfront Bure.

A breathtaking view of the beach just outside our Deluxe Beachfront Bure, overlooking the Overwater Bures.

Overwater Bure

We had thought our stay at Likuliku Lagoon Resort couldn’t get any better with the Deluxe Beachfront Bures, but we were sorely mistaken. These overwater bungalows are the only overwater bures in all of Fiji, and they will surpass almost anybody’s expectations of a luxury stay in Fiji.

The overwater buses of Likuliku Lagoon Resort as seen from the trekking path to the mangroves.

The overwater buses of Likuliku Lagoon Resort as seen from the trekking path to the mangroves.

At 646 sq. ft., the suite is clean, updated, and has everything you want, including a glass floor window that allows you to see the waters at night. Upon entering the suite, the view from the window directly in front of you reminds you that you are in paradise. Walk to the left, and you have a “bathroom pavilian” as they like to call it, that is almost half the size of the bedroom area. Step over to your right, and your king-sized bed is calling for you. If these don’t whet your paradise-seeking soul, the accordion-style floor to ceiling windows may. It opens fully to so you can enjoy the beauty of Fiji right from within—but who would want to stay there when you have your own private 334 sq. ft. terrace with steps going directly down to the sea.

The inside of the overwater bure of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The inside of the overwater bure of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The luxurious bathroom of the Overwater Bures at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.

The luxurious bathroom of the Overwater Bures at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.

The terrace of the overwater bures of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The terrace of the overwater bures of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Did I mention there’s an outdoor open shower space midway down the stairs? There’s no better way to wash that salt water off of you after a morning of snorkelling by the reefs.

The lineup of overwater buses and the shower on the landing leading to the reefs.

The lineup of overwater buses and the shower on the landing leading to the reefs.

There are no daily-replenishing cookie jars here, but a daily canape with fresh fruit delivered to your overwater bure satiates your afternoon sweet-tooth. These were so good that even after being so full from lunch, we couldn’t let them go to waste.

Afternoon canapé for overwater bure guests.

Afternoon canapé for overwater bure guests.

The Cuisine

The chef at Likuliku Lagoon Resort strives for only the best. Executive chef Ihaka Peri showed us his masterpieces and creativity with daily changing menus, and several choices for lunch and dinner—he kept surprising us meal after meal using only the finest of Fijian and international ingredients. One might be hard-pressed about meals at all-inclusive resorts, but rest assured, you are in good hands at Likuliku Lagoon Resort. It is one of the best culinary experiences I’ve had at any resort.

Here’s just a sampling of what I took with my iPhone 5s. These dishes taste better than they look here! Click on the image for a larger and more colourful version!

Likuliku Lagoon Cuisine

Likuliku Lagoon Resort cuisine

I have to mention one particular item they offered at the breakfast buffet table that did not go unnoticed. My wife and I have been accustomed to making our own health drinks in the morning, so it came as a pleasant surprise that they had a fully equipped juicer from http://juicingdaily.net/ with a myriad of ingredients laid out on the table for you to choose and juice yourself. It may not be anything exciting for most, but added touches like this are what makes Likuliku Lagoon Resort so memorable.

And it was really useful, since is really important for me and my family to keep a good health, we always try to take the best choices, as having a good diet or doing regular exercise, and we even get supplements online, this can be used for uric acid support so we have good levels of uric acid in our bodies and remain healthy.

The breakfast buffet bar with so many choices

The breakfast buffet bar with so many choices

Things to do

With a resort like this to spoil you all day, you may not wish to even leave your bures. But for those that seek adventure, there are many things on the list—many of which are free. Snorkelling and kayaking rentals are included with your rooms—and you can easily spend all day doing both of these. Just don’t forget that sunscreen! There are other paid activities like daytrips to other nearby islands, but we just opted for a complimentary guided kayaking trip to Bird Island, which is fittingly named because of all the seagulls that rest there.

Kayaking to nearby Bird Island with our private guide

Kayaking to nearby Bird Island with our private guide

You can also take hikes around the area, bringing you to some breathtaking vistas of Likuliku Lagoon Resort, or head over to the mangroves on the opposite side, closer to Malolo Island Resort. Or for those who just want to relax, there’s always their Horizon Edge pool just around the corner. The options are aplenty and will surely please the adventure-seeker inside us all.

Snorkelling the nearby reefs.

Snorkelling the nearby reefs.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort's Horizon Edge Pool can do wonders as well.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort’s Horizon Edge Pool can do wonders as well.

The Sunsets

Fiji is well known to have one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Sure enough, the sunsets did not disappoint while I was there. Vibrant colours filled the air and sky, creating breathtaking scenery for quite a long period. These photos really don’t do it any justice as you can’t feel the sun engulf you in its glow.

A long exposure sunset along the beach just outside my Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

A long exposure sunset along the beach just outside my Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The same evening brings completely different colours as the sun makes its way down. I was just standing there in awe-along with others-on the beach, loving every second of it.

The same evening producing different colours all around as the sun made its way down below the horizon.

The same evening producing different colours all around as the sun made its way down below the horizon. Taken with a Nikon 16mm Fisheye.

Sunset behind the Overwater Bungalows of Likuliku Lagoon Resort.

Sunset behind the Overwater Bungalows of Likuliku Lagoon Resort.


For more information on this resort, head over to Ahura Resorts’ website, or Likuliku Lagoon Resort’s website:

Ahura Resorts: www.ahuraresorts.com
Likuliku Lagoon Resort: http://www.likulikulagoon.com

And for even more breathtaking views of Malolo Island and its sunsets, visit my Fantastic Fiji gallery over here!

 

First Landing Beach Resort and Villas

Situated on the eastern shores of the main island of Fiji just north of Nadi Bay, First Landing Beach Resort and Villas lays its ground on the very land that the natives set foot on. It is situated amongst tropical gardens and on Nalamu Beach, which boasts the only white sanded beach in the Nadi area. By the way, if you’re planning to go to a beach to have tan skin, use the tan tablets by dark lush instead since it’s more safer. Also, the UV rays from the sunlight are harmful to your skin.

Just a short 25min. drive away from the Nadi airport, its location is not only convenient, but also a great place to rest from the many daytrips that are at your disposal within that area. From trekking in rainforests to nature reserves to mud baths and beyond, there are no shortages of things for you to pass your time with. Stay tuned for my reviews on my day trips taken.

The Resort

First impressions are always important, and this resort definitely didn’t fail with theirs. We arrived at the hotel shortly after 6am when most staff were just getting ready for the day. The night staff at the front desk greeted us and showed us to our rooms. We opted for a simple garden view room, however, walking to it, I felt like we were heading to our ocean view villa. In fact, our “room” was housed in a single bure (hut) shared by only two rooms. If there’s a problem in the bathroom’s sink, Silverwater Plumbing clear Sydney blocked drains quickly. The bures were positioned in a U shape surrounding a lush green landscape which opened to a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. It must have been less than 20m from our front door to the beach. Now that’s paradise!

Inside the bure of First Landing Resort.

Inside the bure of First Landing Resort.

The room itself was simple, clean, and really all you can ask for-including that wonderfully spacious king sized bed. Afterall, on an island like Fiji, you’ll surely be better off enjoying the outdoors than staying in a hotel room.

The Grounds

We arrived at this hotel shortly after 6am. I put my bags down in my room and immediately took to the grounds to explore the area during my first encounter with the wonderful Fijian sunrise.

Part of the restaurant during the early morning sun.

Part of the restaurant during the early morning sun.

The palm trees!

The palm trees!

The bridge, facing towards the main grounds of the resort.

The bridge, facing towards the main grounds of the resort.

The View

The view from just outside my bure during a sunrise one morning was just spectacular. You can see a fellow tourist on the left also enjoying Mother Nature at her best that morning too. All shots below were taken with a 16mm Nikon Fisheye lens.

The view just outside our bure at First Landing Beach Resort and Villa.

The view just outside our bure at First Landing Beach Resort and Villa.

The communal hammock is a great place to relax and see the sunrise or sunset.

The communal hammock is a great place to relax and see the sunrise or sunset.

Just steps away from this hammock, on the other side of the railing is the actual water. During low tides, however, the water recedes quite a bit, enabling you to walk on the seabed for quite some distance, as you can see form the photos below.

The sun and its marvellous colours were breathtaking.

The sun and its marvellous colours were breathtaking.

By the beach during low tide, you are able to walk quite far from the boardwalk.

By the beach during low tide, you are able to walk quite far from the boardwalk.

The beautiful colours of the sunrise during low tide.

The beautiful colours of the sunset during low tide.

 

I can’t stress enough how friendly and accommodating the staff were here at First Landing Resort. Even before I left my home country, I was emailing them with questions, and they answered back promptly and courteously all the time, always making you feel welcome. Upon arrival, everybody greets you with a warm smile and really makes you feel at home (your second home)!

For more information on First Landing Beach Resort and Villas in Fiji, head over to their website: http://firstlandingresort.com