Explore: The Great Ocean Road

Ask any Melbournian and they will recommend a visit to the Great Ocean Road, it’s a simple masterpiece. With a length of 243 km, the Great Ocean Road contains something new and exciting every turn of the corner, whether it be a different landscape, another vibrant coastal town or a forest. Starting in Torquay and ending in Allansford, the Great Ocean road covers hundreds and thousands of landmarks, towns and events. I will cover the major attractions that are along the Great Ocean Road and some advice for those who want to have a fun driving experience.

The most famous attractions lay beyond the Otways national park, but we will start our coverage of the top ten places to visit along the Great Ocean Road from the start (east end).

12 apostles

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Probably one of the most well known attractions along the great ocean road and would definitely need a visit. The 12 apostles, well actually only 8 now are giant limestone stacks that are just off the shore. They are an incredible site to see with their giant tall structures being crushed by the white waves, making it a fantastic piece to photograph and view. There is a dedicated discovery centre with lookouts and I would definitely recommend walking all the way down to the beach to view the 12 apostles. The stacks currently erode at 2cm per year due to the harsh nature of the southern ocean, hence I believe you must visit these mammoths before they all collapse and erode away.

Otways national park

The Otways national park is a fantastic national park along the Great Ocean Road and has some of the best roads to drive along. The national park itself contains 3 waterfalls which are a must visit and contain a huge range of different plant life, animal life and fungi. It is a perfect place for a picnic, mountain bike ride and camping. The Otways have a lot to offer which treetop adventures, hundreds of walking tracks and a seaside view at the edge of the national park. There are an abundance of lakes and rivers, making the Otways a photographers dream. Close to the Otways, there is a fantastic windy road which I would highly recommend any driver to visit, Turtons track. Make sure to have tyres with plenty of grip and are comfortable to drive on these windy roads. It is a fantastic drive with wonderful scenery and greenery that surrounds you, it truly is a magical experience.

London bridge

Remember the childhood nursery rhyme of London bridge is falling down? Well the London Bridge along the Great Ocean Road has in fact fallen down and has now taken on the name of London Arch. It is a natural arch caused by erosion and used to be connected to the mainland, however in 1990 the arch connecting the bridge to the mainland collapsed and thus now is called London Arch. It is still a fantastic natural arch to look at with and provides fantastic photography opportunities.

Loch Ard Gorge

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Just situated 3 minutes away from the 12 apostles, the Loch Ard Gorge is gorgeous. Visitors are allowed to walk down the beach and see in beautiful beach in all its glory. It is fantastic on a warm day and also provides moody photos on a cloudy day. It was named after a ship with ran around on a nearby island, leaving on 2 survivors out of the 54 on board. The Loch Ard Gorge has served many purposes in film and media and will continue to be one of the most beautiful attractions along the Great Ocean Road. Make sure to bring your towel and bathers if you would want a dip! The water is crystal clear and I couldn’t resist dipping my toes in the water.

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is a coastal town situated before the Otways national park and definitely deserves a visit for a lunch stop. There is a lot on offer in this town with fantastic eateries, sea-side views and even the chance to catch a few whales. Southern right whales are known to breed in the area and there have been many sightings of humpback whales in the vicinity. Other towns to visit include, Lorne and Torquay. In fact, I would recommend stopping at as many coastal towns as possible as each has a different vibe, atmosphere and culture.

The Razorback

The razorback is another rock formation that is situated very closely to the Loch Ard Gorge. The name is given to this rock formation with the way it looks due to the wind and water erosion the rock has experienced over the many years. The walking path is a loop and you have a fantastic view of the other rock formations surrounding the Great Ocean Road.

The Blowhole

No surprises here, the blowhole spurts out water on the viewing flatforms and surrounding rocks. It is a fantastic way to cool down on a hot summer’s day and also creates some very interesting long exposure photography. The blowhole is located near the Loch Ard Gorge, but mind you the sea-spray on a calm day can be little to none. The area is also heavily vegetated, so please be careful when making your way to view the blowhole.

The Arch

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The arch, different to London Arch, is a natural formation of an arch located not too far away from the 12 apostles. There is now parking and access to the arch and is a fantastic thing to view no matter what time of the day. It is a quieter attraction which is good to take a breather here and there. There are stairs and walkways to get close to the arch, however getting very close to the arch does require going off roading (with your legs).

Bay of Martyrs

Situated closer to the west end of the Great Ocean Road, the bay of martyrs is one of the most beautiful sites along the great ocean road with plentiful bird wildlife. There are guided walks here and is a prominent sunset destination with its large open views with the limestone cliff edges, reefs and the sparkling water. Some have said the bay has better views than the 12 apostles and are less crowded. I would place this as un underrated spot to visit along the great ocean road.

Bay of Islands

The bay of islands, close to Warrnambool, has spectacular sights and is definitely worth the trip . Many tourists often miss the parts beyond London Arch, however I strongly recommend to travel further to these locations due to their fantastic views and low crowds, making it feel like a private beach. It is quiet and relaxing, a great escape from everyday life. Yet again, the locals have rated this higher than the 12 Apostles and I don’t blame them.

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When travelling along the Great Ocean Road, ensure to travel early in the morning to avoid large tour groups and parking can be limited so be prepared to park far away and walk for the most part. Ensure to pack plenty of water and snacks and definitely bring a DSLR if you have one. If you are unsure as to which DSLR to buy, refer to this guide. Make sure to put the Great Ocean road on your bucket list, you will not regret it. Summer, Winter, rain or shine, there is never a bad day to visit the Great Ocean Road as each climate has a different mood and different perspective.

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Beginner Digital Photography: DSLR 2017

Photography has to be one of the best and most rewarding hobbies. Each photo you capture tells a story. How you got there, what the photo is of, why the photo etc. You could take a photo then create an entire story based off the photo. With the current stresses of modern day life, I think it is important to take time out to relax and get behind a camera. To me, photography makes me relieved, walking in the fresh air and observing the world with an open mind. I will be honest, photography is one of the most expensive hobbies that are out there and also the most diverse. You may be wondering the same questions I was asking towards the end of 2015, how do I get into photography? What do I do? What do all these buttons do? Each week we will go through a specific part to ensure you get the most fullest and most engaging photography experience.

 

When I went to buy my first camera, I literally had no idea what I was doing. I went under the impression that the megapixel count was all that mattered. Despite watching so many youtube videos and reviews, nothing still made sense and salespeople will make you buy expensive equipment. It was only after a month of owning my camera did I know about all the other cameras in the market.

 

A few things you may hear when you buy a new DSLR is the term APS-C crop sensor and full frame. APS-C crop sensors are smaller and found in beginner DSLR’s and there is nothing wrong with them. Most lenses are made for APS-C cameras and they are cheaper than the full-framed version. I would recommend full-frame as your second camera after you are comfortable and enjoy photographing. The more megapixels on a crop sensor would mean a higher-resolution but please remember that this does not equate to a better shot. The shutter speed on Budget cameras normally go up to 1/4000, this is plenty fast to take photos of moving objects. Furthermore, ISO levels are not make or break, a lot of images can be edited through software and you can always adjust the brightness of the shot by changing other factors. If you are confused reading all of this, do not worry, I will be going through each term later. The bottom line is, specs aren’t extremely important.

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My first DSLR was the Nikon D5200, which is a fantastic beginner camera. The internals are nearly identical with the predecessors going up to the Nikon D5500. However, let’s go through the current day offerings and see which camera is the best to begin with. 

 

  1. Nikon D3400

You seriously cannot go wrong with this camera, the pricing and features/performance of this camera make it one of the best bang for buck camera. It is a very simple to use camera and has a lot of built in functionality with a guide mode. The image quality coming out of this camera is superb. If you do not believe me, insta the hashtag #3400.

 

It has a 24.2MP sensor with a 3 inch screen, 5 FPS shooting and 1080p video. I would recommend this camera to anyone. DX lens mount.

 

  1. Nikon D5600

The older brother of the D3400, this camera contains the same sensor internals as the D3400 however introduces a larger swivel touch screen, increased autofocus points, larger flash and a microphone jack. If you feel like you will videoing, I would spend the extra money to get the D5600, the swivel screen helps so much when you are getting trying to something down low or high above. The image quality is better than the D3400 with a few extra internals being included and is just as easy to use. If you have the money, definitely go for this camera.

 

It has a 24.2MP sensor with a 3.2 inch touch screen, 5 FPS shooting and 1080p video. I would recommend this camera to anyone. DX lens mount.

 

  1. Canon EOS Rebel T7i (EOS 800D)

Direct competitor to the D5600, the canon puts up a strong fight. This newly released camera comes with a 24MP sensor however has a lower ISO range compared to the two Nikon cameras. This camera is very capable with a 3 inch swivel touch screen. The specs are very similar to the D5600, however with the D5600 being newer, it contains more options. It is however pricier but you may be interested in Canon’s larger lens collection, which is a bonus later down the track when you need to upgrade your lens to suit your needs. I would recommend Canon over Nikon when it comes to videos.

 

It has a 24MP sensor with a 3 inch touch screen, 5 FPS shooting and 1080p video. I would recommend this camera to anyone. EF-S lens mount.

 

  1.   Canon EOS Rebel T6 (EOS 1300D)

This Canon is a competitor to the D3400, It is Canon’s cheaper budget option with good quality images. The megapixel count is however only 18MP, meaning a smaller maximum resolution. What separates the Nikon from the Canon is the continuous shutter speed with the Canon at a measly 3fps and the Nikon with 5ps. This could be a deal breaker when it comes to photographing sports and any moving object. As a beginner photographer you would want room to grow before you move up in the photography game.

 

It has a 18MP sensor with a 3 inch screen, 3 FPS shooting and 1080p video. I would recommend to stay away from this camera. EF-S lens mount.

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What about other brands?

I have excluded other brands from this list as these are DSLR cameras and I will create another list for mirrorless cameras. The problem with the current mirrorless cameras are battery life however they are extremely compact. Pentax also have a range of bang for buck DSLR’s, however they have a very limited lens range which also means the pricing of certain lens would be higher due to the rarity. As a beginner, it is best to start off the common cameras with all the forums and other users.

 

Overall thoughts?

Nikon D5600 would be the camera to buy as your first camera. It has everything you could possibly need as a beginner and will help you become an amateur photographer and help bridge the gap into full frame photography. For a beginner I would recommend the kit lenses as they provide a perfect range for most photography.  

 

 

 

Honest Review: Samsung S8

Samsung was eager to release their S8 after the note 7 debacle and they did not disappoint. Released in April 2017, the Samsung S8 has become the phone of the future, the benchmark for smartphone technology. Let’s take an in depth look at Samsung’s latest flagship.

 

Build Quality

The very first thing you notice about the phone is the screen, it has a whopping 83.6% screen to body ratio, making the phone feel like what we dreamt the future would be like a couple years ago. The screen is an super AMOLED display with amazing colours and brightness, something the iphone 7 lacks. The form factor is very similar to the S7, however the S8 has the screen size of the S7 edge. The resolution is a little out of whack and unusual, however now third party apps have adjusted to this unusual screen resolution and video’s make use of the crop to fit functionality. The overall build quality of the S8 is class leading with its smooth curved screen, glass front and back that seamlessly integrate into the metal side panels. It feels natural to hold in the hand and is very comfortable to use, Samsung really knocked it out of the park with this build. The corning gorilla glass 5 gives the user a sense of ease when dropped, knowing each generation of smartphones become more and more durable. That being said, a case would be recommended to be worn to preserve the beauty of the phone. The phone is also ip68 rated, which is extremely useful in the wet weather as well as taking underwater videos or photos. When applied with force, the phone barely bends which is always a positive. One thing that Samsung didn’t get right with the build is the fingerprint button placement, it’s shocking. I’m not sure who told the engineers to place it on the far side, but the flashlight and scanner should definitely be swapped. The reason I say this is due to the awkward one hand use as the finger stretches over to the other side whilst smudging the back camera. This isn’t a deal breaker but it definitely is something that you need to take time to get use to it. However, it makes sense when you use the phone with two hands. A possible solution for this could be integrating the fingerprint scanner onto the screen in the future.

4.7/5

 

Features

The Samsung S8 is filled with innovative features as well as some completely unnecessary features, I will touch on the ones I think are important. The curved edge for me is more for aesthetic however the edge panels are surprisingly helpful at time. You can customise the edge panels to display apps, people, reminders, weather, sport scores and finance. This can be helpful when you need to quickly check something. With the edge to edge display, Samsung had to introduce onscreen buttons. The buttons are remappable and now with the latest update, you can make the buttons disappear during applications which make the screen feel so much bigger. The S8 features Bluetooth version 5.0 which is leaps and bounds above version 4.0. The feature I personally enjoy the most is the ability to stream your music to two different Bluetooth speaker simultaneously to give a stereo experience. Click here to learn more about Bluetooth 5.0. Furthermore, the S8 has expandable memory and a headphone jack. Samsung has made the switch the USB type C ports, which is the current market trend and is really simple to plug in. A new feature Samsung has introduced is the Iris scanner which operates similar to windows hello where the infrared camera scans your eyes and surrounding face, if there is a match you unlock the phone. What is really useful is the ability to capture gifs, scroll captures screenshots and other clever bits with make the S8 more like what the note7 was meant to be. Also Bixby is shit.

4.5/5  

 

Performance

The S8 is decked out with the latest specifications with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 for USA and China and the remaining countries with the Exynos 8895 Octa. Both are top of the line processors and the GPUs, Adreno 540, handle all the current smartphone applications like a walk in the part. The phone runs extremely smooth thanks to the inbuilt 4GB of ram as well as the 64GB internal storage. The phone has the same amount of ram as the everyday laptop. The phone performs extremely well, however it does get hot after an hour of strenuous use. The camera is relatively unchanged with its 12MP shooter at f/1.7. It easily can shoot 4K and has optical image stabilization for 1080p shooting. The secondary camera is an 8MP shooter that can shoot 1440p video. The samsung S8 camera is a slight improvement over the S7, however the google pixel and the HTC u11 reign ahead.

4.8/5

 

Battery Life

I consider the battery life to be the most important feature when buying a smartphone. With the increased screen size and resolution, the battery remains the same size as the S7. What? Yes, it’s the same size, but do not fret. From my usage of the phone, the battery life is better than the S7 but not the best. I am able to get a full day use out of the phone and just reach the 15% warning. There are two power saving modes that allow you to extend the battery life, however your notifications do get delayed and sometimes your messages do not get sent straight away. One thing that is positive is the quick charging and wireless charging. This allows you to charge the phone quickly and newer power banks are supporting quick charging both ways. In order to increase the battery life of the phone, remember to close all applications that are not being used, such as Facebook or Messenger and ensure to take your phone off the charger once it’s fully charged, which means avoiding overnight charging.

4/5

 

Complaints

This is the section where I like to highlight everything that isn’t good with the phone, let’s begin with Bixby. There is a complete dedicated button towards something the world doesn’t need, another smart assistant. I personally like to avoid using smart assistants however this time I unfortunately cannot avoid accidentally pressing the button. It is in such a poor placement and I activate the button far too often. What needs to happen is Samsung should allow users to remap the button to something they would like to open, let’s say the camera or the phone application, something that is useful. If anything, I would rather use google now than to use Bixby. The speakers on the S8 need improvement, the down firing speaker is getting really old now with competitors introducing stereo speakers which make use of the earpiece like in the HTC 10 and 11. The screen resolution is also very annoying when watching videos in 1080p as there are thick black bars to the side. The crop to fit functionality does take away certain aspects and can be annoying with hardcoded subtitles. Another complaint has to be the pricing, well this goes towards the entire industry. I’ll save this for another article, also Bixby is shit. The fingerprint scanner really needs to be reevaluated and perhaps making the phone a little thicker to allow a larger battery. I’m sure many consumers would prefer a slightly thicker phone and have an amazing battery life!

 

Overall thoughts

Samsung really nailed this phone, they did nearly everything right and deserve to make huge profits from this phone to invest in future improvements. It takes time for the consumers to adapt to changes such as the loss of the headphone jack and Samsung has made the smart move to leave to port until the market is ready to move. There are many improvements that can be made with this phone, it isn’t perfect, but Samsung really are becoming the market leaders and giving us the phone of the future. I purchased my S8 on an $84 Optus plan using the family and friends 20% discount, bringing the monthly payment to around $67. Make sure to search around for a deal on this phone and you will not regret.

Overall score:  18/20 = 90%

Competitors:

  • Google Pixel
  • HTC U11
  • Iphone 7
  • LG G6