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A Balancing Act in the Dominican Republic: Finding Time to Photograph the Island and Be a Bridesmaid

I was thrilled to escape the early signs of the harsh Toronto weather and bask in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic sun in early November. My primary reason for vacationing in the Caribbean was to attend one of my girlfriend’s wedding.  Visiting someplace new is always an exciting opportunity for me to be able to add more photos to my travel portfolio.  It also allows me the opportunity to improve the images I wasn’t happy with the last time I visited a similar destination as well as capture things I did not have the chance to photograph in previous trips.

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Also, this holiday gave me the opportunity to shoot with my new Sony A7 for the second time.  I am accustomed to traveling with my Canon 70D,  lugging around a massive backpack and two tripods. When I switched to the Sony A7 I was able to downsize my camera bag to something that would not break my back.

My first day on the island after I checked into my room, I rushed down to the beach to try to catch the sunset.  I failed to realize that the location of the resort was on the east side of the island and impossible to see the sunset from my location.   I was fortunate enough to capture the pink and purplish hues that painted the sky before the sun dipped below the horizon for the night.

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Taken with Sony A7 | Punta Cana Sunset | 1/5 sec at f / 6.3, ISO 64 |

Most of my days were spent confined to the resort surrounded by a bunch of people taking full advantage of the all inclusive poolside beverages.  I typically like to explore new places I visit and gain insight on the day-to-day life of the locals and taste some traditional cuisine that is specific to the island.  I would have been happy going to the city centre at the very least and visiting the market even if it was adorned with overpriced touristy crap.

Riu Palace Punta Cana | Taken with Leica | 1/800 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 100 |

As a photographer, I yearn to leave the comforts of the everyday I am accustomed to and search for something different to capture.

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Riu Palace Punta Cana Pool | Taken with Sony A7 1/800 sec at f / 4.0, ISO 100 |

With all the pre-wedding festivities there was barely anytime left for me to photograph something other then my immediate surroundings.

I had one free day following the wedding to finally see some of the island.  I wanted to find something that would allow me to see and do something unique to the island. I hoped to make up for the seven previous days spent eating, soaking up rays, sleeping and having a few night time beverages.

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Taken with Sony A7 | Drivie through El Limon, Samana | Dominican Republic | 1/400 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 50 |

I searched for the best excursions available on the island and came across a waterfall.  I quickly discovered that the waterfall was on the opposite side of the island and a four and a half hour drive.  However there was an option to take a small single propellor 30 minute plane ride.  I had never been on anything smaller than a commercial jet so I thought that this would pose a great opportunity to experience something new.

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Taken with iPhone 6 |

After the short flight I mounted my poor mule Ferrari that carried me three kilometres  downhill.  At the bottom of the hill was the beautiful  waterfall I had traveled all the way to see. It was really muddy and wet and the narrow walkway adjacent to it was crowded. It was difficult to situate my tripod at an ideal perspective. My tour guide led me to an empty spot that was above a steep hill slightly looking down on the falls.  The rocks were slippery and I was worried that my tripod wouldn’t be able to stay firmly situated in my desired position long enough to capture my image.  For the first time since I have owned the Sony A7 I placed my variable ND filter on top of my lens and attempted to take a long exposure shot of the falls cascading down the side of the cliff.

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Initially I had some difficulties getting my settings correct because I am still getting used to where everything is located on the Sony after being a Canon user for sometime.  I finally got the best image I was able to achieve under the circumstances.

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The next part of the day consisted of taking a short boat ride to a private island just 15 minutes away from shore.  The island was paradise.  It was the epitome of everything one would imagine when envisioning a private beach.  It was quiet, had white sandy beaches, the bluest sky and the most beautifully coloured aqua water.

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Taken with iPhone 6 | Bacardi Island |

After a few hours on the island it was time to fly back another 30 minutes to Punta Cana.  I was hoping that I would be able to capture the setting of the sun. The windows were filthy and the glare was overwhelming. It was challenging to capture the images I was hoping to achieve from a plane hovering so low over the lush green landscape.

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Parasailing Boat | Taken with Sony A7 | 1/320 sec at f / 11, ISO 50 |

My last day I was determined to go parasailing. The only reason being so I would be able to capture the beachfront and shoreline from a bird eye view.  I brought along my Sony but I saw some people were getting splashed when coming back in after soaring high in the sky.  I asked the skipper to assure I wouldn’t get wet and he did so however I still did not want to risk any water damage to my new camera.

Parasailing above Bravaro Beach | Dominican Republic | Taken with Leica | 1/800 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 100 |

I opted to take up my Leica because it was still a lot smaller and several years older.  It would be easier to manage while trying to hold on to the belts hanging from a metal rod below the parasail high above the ocean.

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Punta Cana Shoreline | Taken with Sony A7 | 1/250 sec at f / 9, ISO 50 |

I have wanted to shoot star trails for some time now but living in Toronto I haven’t had the opportunity due to all the light pollution. The beach was quite windy and there was absolutely no immediate lights surrounding me so I had to use the light from my iPhone to allow me to see where all the settings were on my camera.  I was curious to see the night capability of the Sony because I have heard great things about it.  I attempted to do the best I could with no experience shooting under similar circumstances.

I would have liked to have more time to explore the island but I am happy I was able to shoot under conditions and locations that are far different than what I am generally used to shooting in.

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Star Gazing After Midnight |Bravaro Beach | Punta Cana | Dominican Republic | Taken with Sony A7 | 111.0 secs at f / 4.5, ISO 250 |

Bye bye sunshine and warm weather.  I will see you again in the springtime.

Until next time,

Alyssa

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