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When I first thought about visiting Nepal, I thought of fresh air, Hinduism and an incredible view of the Himalayas.  I did not expect utter chaos on the streets and pollution so thick that the highest mountain range in the world was near impossible to see.  This is Kathmandu I’m referring to and not the entire country of Nepal.

There were grand plans to tour around Nepal to see the incredible landscape,  but a near fatal airplane ride that lasted all of ten minutes changed my mind.  The airplane I was on was put together with Band-Aids.  I’m sure of this.  Once the plane landed again in Kathmandu, I swore I would never fly again.  It was that scary. 

So, all of my time was spent exploring the capital city of Kathmandu.  Visiting and seeing the Pashupatinath Temple and Kathmandu Durbar Square were incredible experiences.  The intricacy of the architecture alone is mind blowing.  The crowds at each historical site make them feel a little less holy as it were.  

The traffic from Point A to Point B, however, made the experience less than enjoyable.

I don’t mean to entirely knock Kathmandu.  The people are charming and everyone I encountered was more than friendly.   If you love people watching and have no trouble talking to strangers, you’ll love Kathmandu.  If you want to feel the unique vibe of the city  make your way to Thamel.

Thamel is interesting with its overcrowded streets and hundreds of electrical wire twisted and tangled on electric poles.  If you want to experience real Kathmandu life, venture a street or two away from Thamel.  Explore.  Discover.  That’s what travel is about.  Have a look a the video in this blog post and you’ll see what you’ll find.

All of the images in the video slideshow were taken with an iPhone.  If you’re interested in capturing better travel photos with your own mobile device, have a read below.

Tips For Capturing the Best Travel Photos With Your iPhone

1.  Keep Your iPhone Steady

The best way to eliminate camera shake is to steady your iPhone.  You can do this with a mini-tripod setup, but you can also just lean the camera on a flat surface like a table or chair using a sweater or similar to prop it up. Using the self-timer will make sure you don’t end up moving the phone as you take the shot.

2.  Click The Shutter Using the Volume Buttons

iPhones offer two ways to fire the shutter: pressing the on-screen button, and using either of the volume keys.  The volume keys will almost always be the better option because they allow a firmer grip. By holding the phone firmly with both hands, you’ll get a steadier shot than you would using the on-screen button. It also makes it easier to keep the camera level with the horizon, so you don’t get a tilted shot.

3.  Use ‘motor drive’ for low-light shots

Low-light shots are always tricky.  The iPhone amplifies the signal to the sensor to make the most of the available light, but it also needs to keep the sensor switched on for longer.  This makes it much more likely that camera shake will create motion blur.  You can maximize your chances of getting a steady shot by holding down the volume key to take a burst of half a dozen shots.  Usually one of the later ones will be better as you eliminate the small movement you tend to get when pressing the shutter release.  It sort of sounds like cheating, but it works.

4.  Keep HDR On

Camera sensors have limited dynamic range.  What these means is that if you expose a shot to capture detail in the shadows, the brightest parts of the image – the highlights – will be blown out, appearing pure white.  Conversely, if you expose for the highlights, shadow areas will appear solid black.

High Dynamic Range takes multiple exposures and automatically blends them together into a single image that captures details in both the shadows and the highlights, so keep HDR switched on.  While you may occasionally want to switch it off for creative reasons, you’ll want it on most of the time.

5.  Keep The Flash Off

A flash throws a lot of light a very short distance. A typical photo of a person with the flash on will light their face properly but everything else will be under-exposed.  The result is a photo that could have been taken anywhere.  If you want to show the surroundings, try the shot without flash first – using the above tips to help.  If you’re in any doubt about the result, you can take a flash shot as insurance.

When you’re taking a photo of anything more than a few feet away, flash is not only pointless, it’s actually counterproductive.  It won’t light what you’re trying to photograph, but will light up anything in the foreground, which may ruin the shot by making the rest of the shot dark.

So my advice is to keep flash off by default, switching it on only when you specifically want it.

6.  Pay Attention to the Natural Light Around You

When taking a shot, look at where the light is coming from. For most photos, you’ll want the light coming from behind you. If you shoot directly into the light, the shot is likely to be underexposed, and even if not, detail will be washed out.

When photographing people, you’ll show the shape of their face when the light is at a roughly 45 degree angle. This tends to produce the most interesting portraits.

As with all photography ‘rules,’ there will be times you want to break them. Shooting directly into the light – known as contre-jour – can produce great effects when done deliberately. You will, though, typically need to use photo editing software to recover detail from the shadows, and you’ll probably see lens flare in the shot.

7.  Know All About Where You’re Going

For travel photography, some web research can pay real dividends in the sights you’ll see and the photos you’ll get. On a visit to Shanghai, it was web research that alerted me to the fact that one of the most spectacular views in the city was actually seen from inside a building: the amazing atrium inside the Jin Mao Tower.

8.  Remember to Explore All Perspectives

Sometimes you’ll get a more interesting shot by getting down low, getting up high and shooting directly down or shooting straight up. (And consider tip 8a as ‘monochrome can be your friend when the weather is overcast’ …)

9.  Think of the Distance Between You and Your Subject

Sometimes with a portrait shot, you’ll want to show the person in their surroundings. This is particularly effective when you want to show what someone does, like showing an artist with their canvas. But often times, portraits have the greatest impact when you get really close, filling the frame with the person. Getting in close will also blur the background, something usually not possible with the small sensors used in cameraphones.

10.  Foregrounds and Backgrounds Are Important

A photo is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional scene. A sense of depth can be lost when looking at a photo, so including something in the foreground can be a good way to restore that 3D feel.

11.  Wake Up Early or Stay Up Late

Ok, I’ll admit that pretty much the only time I take this advice myself is accidentally due to jet-lag!  But if you want to take a photo of a popular tourist attraction, getting there before the crowds can definitely help.  Staying late is always my option as so many people disappear from the streets after the sun goes down.  If you choose late, remember the rules for low light photography.

 

This is Qatar.  Visiting Qatar can be an otherworldly experience solely because the culture is so vastly different than what we know and accept in the Western World.  I grew up in a Muslim country so I’m keenly aware of the way I should dress, behave and what is culturally acceptable.  To visit a country like Qatar and think we can be fully American or British without a problem is a problem.  My best advice to you is if you visit a country like Qatar or U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia, be aware.

That said, Qatar is an incredibly mysterious and fabulous country to visit.  I usually only have a brief stopover in Doha, but I once stayed ten days to get a good and genuine feel for Qatar.

The architecture in Qatar is modern, stylish and sexy.  I almost feel like I’m at Disneyland whenever I’m in the Doha’s business district.  The city is unreal.  The wealth on display is incredible to look at even though the wealth is unattainable for people like you and me.

Everything new is old again.  We always hear the opposite.  In Qatar historical places that were old were torn down and rebuilt to look old.   Souq Waqif is a great example of what I’ve just said.  Al Zubarah Fort in the middle of the desolate desert is another good example.  These are not bad elements about Qatar, but I do find them curious in an amusing sort of way.

One of the highlights for me in Qatar is Katara Cultural Village.  It houses an incredible amphiteatre made of limestone that is out of this world  beautiful.  There is a music learning centre, a centre for photography, painting,  and anything else artistic you could think of in one area.  Every major and minor city in the world should have something like Katara Cultural Village.  Imagine the burst of creativity throughout the world if this were true.

Additionally, the Museum of Islamic Art is one of the most incredible museums I’ve visited anywhere in the world.  The building itself is a work of art.  The art inside the beautiful structure is impeccable.

Dune bashing is one of the top activities in Qatar.  The dunes are near the Inland Sea.  What was most incredible for me was to see the light beige fine sand dunes meet the cobalt coloured water.  The landscape was truly stunning.  Bashing into the sand dunes with a 4×4 was great fun as well.  It’s a wonder my hand came loose from the car door’s arm rest.  It was a wee bit harrowing and the driver was intent on showing off as he tore into the dunes.  He showed off so much he cracked the radiator and we were left stranded in the desert until another 4×4 came along.  I chalked it up to another fun travel experience I’ll not soon forget.

Do I recommend an extended visit to Qatar?  Yes, absolutely.  The video in this blog shows you some of the highlights you can expect during your visit.

6 iPhone Photography Tips to Create Striking Photos with Minimal Gear

The phrase isn’t just an advertising gimmick — more people take photos with an iPhone or smartphone than a camera from any other brand. The iPhone is one of the most used cameras not because it can outperform a DSLR, but because with smartphones, anyone can take a photograph. But just because a three-year-old could take a photo with an iPhone doesn’t mean your photos should sit on the same level as a child’s crayon drawing. Use these six iPhone photography tips to create great photos with the camera you already have in your pocket.

::  Know your iPhone’s strengths and weaknesses  ::

Every camera has strengths and weaknesses — understanding what your gear can do and what it can’t is essential. The iPhone is a good camera because you can take it anywhere, easily. With iPhoneography, you’re more likely to have a camera ready when you’re in the right place at the right time for an amazing image. The lens captures a nice wide view. iPhone users love the simple interface and editing without a computer. Smartphone companies also work to make up for what the devices can’t do with software, like HDR, and, for dual lens smartphones, artificial background blur.

Like any smartphone though, the iPhone doesn’t offer the same level of control as a DSLR. The lens is fixed, which means there’s no optical zoom or aperture setting. The smaller sensor means the iPhone isn’t ideal for giant prints and you can’t get the same bokeh as in professional photos. Heavy use of the iPhone camera can also drain the battery quickly.

Understanding the camera you already have is the first step to taking better photos. Along with knowing those general pros and cons, make sure you’re familiar with what your particular camera model can do. Apple introduced dual lenses with the iPhone 7 Plus, which gives the plus models several photo-related advantages. The iPhone X, for example, has an excellent portrait mode and can even generate artificial lighting effects. Older models like the iPhone 5S may not have all the features as the newer Apple models.

::  Tap to focus, drag to brighten  ::

One of the perks of the iPhone is that big touchscreen. But the touchscreen also leaves some features hidden because there’s no actual label for them on the screen. You can adjust both the focus and the exposure (how light or dark the image is) by tapping on the screen.

First, tap the object or person that you want to focus on. Once the camera focuses, you’ll see a yellow box on that spot with a yellow sun next to it. To adjust the exposure, tap on that sun and drag your finger up to brighten the image or down to darken it.

::  HDR is your friend  ::

HDR is an effect built into your phone that does instantly what it would take a few minutes with a DSLR and editing software. HDR, or high dynamic range, essentially captures a wider range of light than a single photo. That means the lightest parts won’t be so white and the darkest parts won’t be so dark. Use HDR anytime you are photographing a high contrast scene, which is pretty much any shot where you include a sky or window. Turn it off for action shots, though — it’s a mode best for still life and landscape. The process actually merges multiple photos together, so the mode doesn’t work well for moving subjects. The HDR effect is easy to turn on and off by tapping the HDR icon at the top of the camera app.

::  Force a flash in crappy light  ::

The flash on a smartphone is often better left off because of the harsh shadows that tiny light creates. But there is a good reason to turn that flash on and it’s in a scenario where most don’t realize a flash is actually helpful: extreme bright light. If you’re outside in the sunshine and you’re taking a photo of someone and the sun is making dark shadows under their eyes, turn the flash on. (Auto will only fire if the scene looks dark). The flash will fill in the shadows, and since you’re already in a bright light anyway, it will hardly look like you used a flash at all.

::  Use advanced photography apps for striking results  ::

One of the biggest perks to smartphone photography is software. If you’re using only the native camera app, you’re not taking advantage of one of the iPhone’s biggest advantages. Download an app with advanced camera options to find more features than what’s in Apple’s basic app. Often, these apps are the same ones that you can use to edit your photos. Some of the best options include Adobe Lightroom CC, VSCO, Pro Cam and Moment Pro.

Inside an advanced camera app, turn on the option called RAW or DNG. (The feature is available with iOS 10 or later and models since the iPhone 6S). This is a file that carries more information than the usual JPEG. That means you have much more flexibility when you edit the photo than if you leave that option off. The downside is that you will have to do some post-processing to the images, and they’ll also take up more space on your iPhone. Be sure to look around the app for other specialty modes — for example, the Lightroom mobile app has an option to photograph long exposures. HDR modes are also often part of these apps.

Advanced camera apps will also allow you to have the most control over the settings. With some reading up and practice on exposure settings, you can adjust the shutter speed and ISO yourself to create intentional blur, eliminate blur, or create the mood you want by intentionally shooting a darker or lighter image.

::  Expand your iPhone photography with lenses and lights  ::

iPhone photography doesn’t mean you have to shoot with just an iPhone. The smartphone’s popularity means there’s no shortage of accessories to help you capture the shot. Lenses will create more flexibility than the camera can offer alone. A telephoto lens will get up close and also create more of that softer background that’s difficult for smartphones to capture. But you can also go even wider with an ultra-wide angle lens. A macro lens allows for great close-ups, often even closer than you can get with a DSLR because of that smaller sensor.

An iPhone photography light can also step up the quality of your images by allowing you to control the light in the scene. Mini tripods can also be helpful for taking a selfie without that telltale arm extended, or trying out that long exposure mode available on some apps.

The iPhone camera has been everything from the launching point of a full-blown photography career to a memory keeper for those everyday moments. By integrating a few photo tips, you can get the most from the camera you already own — and maybe enter the annual iPhone photography awards. Remember, the best iphone photography isn’t about gear, but about what you’re able to capture with it.

Cartagena Colombia has become a popular North American tourist destination in recent years.  If you want to learn a bit more about travel to this Caribbean city, you’ve come to the right place.  This is Cartagena.

The historical center is the main tourist attraction in Cartagena and it’s divided up into easy to navigate sections.  Throughout the centre you’ll find inviting gardens with overgrown trees for you to escape the harsh humid and hot climate.  Take a seat on any number of benches and simply watch the locals rush by in their every day lives.

You’ll also find various museums such as the eye opening Inquisition Museum, a modern art museum and even a museum for chocolate lovers.  There is no shortage of places for you to learn a bit more about this brilliant city on the Caribbean Sea.  Fancy a few colorful photos?  Cartagena will delight you with vibrant colors that are sure to make you travel photos pop with beautiful energy.

As with any tourist destination you’ll find plenty of nice restaurants mixed with a bit of run of the mill eateries.  Shops line the streets of this historic area which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.

As the city hugs the coastline of the Caribbean Sea, you’re sure to find any number of beaches.  Rent a chair or a cabana for the day and enjoy the sea and surf.  There is plenty of sunshine in Cartagena for you to enjoy on any given day.

The short video shows what you can expect to find during your visit to Cartagena.  Each image in the slideshow was captured solely with my iPhone.  For iPhone travel photography tips, skip down below.

1.  WORKING WITH COMPOSITION

The composition is also a crucial ingredient to great iPhone photography. Here are a couple examples where the rules worked very well.

There is a great tool on the iPhone and it is the grid feature. These lines exemplify the Rule of Thirds. They divide your composition into horizontal and vertical lines.

You can place a subject along any line. Or where the lines intersect (visual hotspots).

2.  USING AVAILABLE LIGHT

Mastering all the settings of iPhone photography is certainly necessary to creating great photography. But you can’t forget the creative side as well.

Great lighting and composition are just as important in telling the story you wish to tell.

Outdoor natural light is defined by:  Quality, Quantity, Direction, and Color.

The quality of light often includes how soft or hard the light is. Quantity relates to brightness. Lots of light is usually bright while darker conditions have less available light.

Direction defines the angle the light is coming from and Color is just that: the colour of the light.

3.  HOW TO CREATE HDR ON YOUR IPHONE

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. On IOS devices, the camera takes three exposures: light, dark, and normal.
Then it blends them together to create an image with more detail throughout the highlights and shadows.
This is a very valuable feature. Use it when photographing high contrast scenes with dark shadows and bright highlights.

4.  USE ‘VIEW ON MAP’

Have you ever captured a photo and later wondered where you took the photograph?
It has happened to me many times over the years, but the iPhone has a feature called View on Map. It is quite simple to use.

Open your camera roll and find the photo you are wondering about. Once the photo is open, slide up from the bottom and the map shows up with the location.

5.  USING THE FLASH

Adding Flash to your subject can be very useful in some situations. The iPhone flash is not very powerful, so its usefulness is limited to a few feet. In bright sun, the flash does not do so well but in the shade, it can be a different story.

6.  ADJUSTING THE EXPOSURE

The iPhone’s metering is for the most part automatic.
Average scenes with average lighting may expose correctly. But there may be times where the iPhone falls short.
Fortunately, adjusting exposure is quite easy.

This full tonal range image is easy to meter and expose.

Wherever you tap on the screen to set focus, you also are choosing that spot to meter exposure.  Start by tapping on the screen where you will see the Sun symbol next to the yellow box.

The sun symbol is the slider to adjust exposure so slide the symbol up or down to lighten or darken.

7.  CROP YOUR IMAGES

Sometimes you might capture an image and later discover something in your photo you want to crop out.

To use the Crop feature, choose the photo from the camera roll and open it, then select Edit.  At the bottom next to Cancel, is the crop tool.

Click that and then you can drag the sides or corners anywhere you wish on the photo.
And if your horizon is tilted, use two fingers to rotate and straighten. Or drag on the dial right below the picture.

8.  WORK WITH DIFFERENT SHOOTING MODES

Depending on the Apple iPhone model (whether it’s an iPhone 5S, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, etc.), there are several modes you can choose from. These include:
Time-Lapse and Slo-Mo for videos

Video
Photo (4×3 Ratio)
Square (2×2)
Pano (for panoramas)
The latest models also have a Portrait Mode.

While capturing still photos, the 4×3 Photo mode is a perfect ratio for many scenes.

Square mode is also very useful when you have a subject that fills the frame.

The Panorama feature can be a lot of fun and is very easy to use. Select the Pano mode, touch the shutter button, and then move the camera from left to right.  It works best if you have a tripod to keep the camera level. If you don’t have one, try your best to keep the camera level while panning left to right.

9.  HOW TO SET THE FOCUS

Most of the time, the focus will be sharp throughout an average scene due to the iPhone’s tiny sensor.
This is for when you want something specific to be sharp such as a close-up. Using the set focus feature will ensure that your main subject is sharp.

Touch the screen and place the yellow square in the area you want to be in focus.

By placing the subject closer to the camera and making it in focus, the depth of field appears shallow.
This throws the background more out of focus for a nice effect.

10. TRY THE SELF TIMER

Use the self-timer feature to capture a different style of selfies or any scene for that matter. The timer can be set for 3 or 10 seconds. Which time you choose depends on you.

3 seconds is not a lot of time but can be useful when you want to take a picture without touching the camera.
The 10-second feature is better if you want enough time to press the shutter and then get in front of the camera.

11. USE A SELFIE STICK TO BROADEN YOUR PERSPECTIVE

To some degree, the smartphone gets a lot of credit for the Selfie craze we see today. No longer do we need to ask a stranger to take our picture in front of an amazing background.

What’s great about a selfie stick is that you are no longer limited to the length of your arm.

These can be very handy not only for selfies.  If the stick has legs, you can use it like a tripod.
This is especially helpful in low light conditions. That’s when camera movement might cause blur.

12. EASY ACCESS TO YOUR NATIVE IPHONE CAMERA

You never know when you might stumble on something that requires a rapid response to capture the shot.
But every time you have to unlock the phone before selecting the camera app.

Head over to your phone’s settings and make sure you can quickly swipe the screen and the camera opens up ready to go.