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November 2019

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What is the best way to explore and discover London?  Randomly.  There are unexpected finds around every curved road in London.  There is no doubt about that.  This is London.  Take her each day.  Take her at night.  Take her your way and don’t let a guidebook guide you.  

If you love travel photography, London is the perfect place for you.  There are no shortages of photo opportunities.  In fact, I write a series on this blog called “The Best Places to Photograph London” where I list all the top London photo spots.  But in this post, let’s talk about capturing the best London photos with your iPhone.

The iPhone camera is convenient for spontaneous moments.  It is also a power little tool that fits in your pocket.  The cool thing is you only have to follow one rule.  Don’t Think.  Just Shoot.

Forget the postcard travel photos.  Try one full day where you candidly snap shots without thinking.  The idea isn’t to capture the perfect photo.  Don’t review the photo just after you’ve taken it.  Keep shooting.  Look up.  Look down.  Turn sideways.  Get down on the ground.  Go up some steps.  Try any and every angle you can imagine.

The theme is London.  What will you see that is the epitome of London?  What will you photograph?  When you review your photos at the end of the day, the ones you see that scream LONDON are the right ones.  

Soho is brilliant for this sort of candid photography.  There are ample opportunities all throughout the once sordid area of the WestEnd.  Try a walk along the Thames River.  The Southbank is one of my all time favourite London walks.  It is also full of photo opportunities.

The idea for this exercise is to strengthen how you see and your photo composition.  Exploring aimlessly with your camera phone is also a fantastic way to learn more about the city.  If you don’t find yourself in London, try the same photo challenge wherever you are.

I’ve listed a few tips about taking nice travel photos with your iPhone ::

10 Handy Tips for taking better travel photos with your iPhone

1. Clean your lens
This may be the silliest thing you’ve ever read as a tip for better photography, but there are so many times phones are picked up, the lens gets accidentally swiped by a finger and one forget to wipe the smudges off before snapping a photo. These photos tend to come out cloudy or blurry and the shooter doesn’t realize it until looking back at the images later when she wants to post. Carry a lens safe wipe and before any photo taking commences, wipe that lens clean.

2. Get to know your camera settings
There are a number of options in the iPhone camera settings that will allow you to have a better understanding and guide when taking any kind of photos. It takes just a few minutes to explore what the settings include and having the better understanding will help you feel just that much more comfortable with what you are looking at when you shoot. The following are some adjustments to make in your setting:

3. Keep HDR in auto mode (turn it on)
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it blends the best aspects of three different exposures into a single photo. You are also able to keep the normal photo you take if you’re making adjustments to the screen when you snap the pic, but if you want to edit the photo after it’s been taken, the HDR photo is going to be your best version to modify.

4. Turn on the Grid
Do you ever wonder why the grid shows 2 vertical lines and 2 horizontal lines in the camera view? This is because it’s helping you set up for the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a photography technique that has the photographer align the subject to intersect with the lines or specifically fall in one of the three divided planes of the photo. All photos don’t need to be taken with this rule in mind, as you may want to simply center a subject for a different effect. But placing the subject at the intersection of the lines can add more interesting tones to an image.

5. Avoid using the flash
Turning the flash on and off isn’t in settings, but actually in the camera app. Your best bet is to take the photo with the best natural light or add more lighting to the subject. There are a number of variables that could turn for the worse when using a flash, so best to avoid altogether.

6. Don’t shoot with a filter
There might be some default filters in the iPhone (or camera) that you love and gravitate toward, but your style or preference may change down the road and you can’t take it back. It’s best to take your photo filter free and add it later. You can always duplicate the image and add the filter to it after.

7. Turn Live Photos on or off
Live photos are essentially mini videos and now the iPhone models allow you to edit the Live Photo in a variety of ways. If you want to have the opportunity to turn it into a gif more easily, turn on Live Photos, consider the subject and it’s movement when you take the photo.

8. Never zoom 
This may seem counter-intuitive, but because the iPhone camera isn’t optimized for a zoom it destroys the quality of the image the closer the zoom gets to the subject. Instead, consider two choices. 1 – get much closer to the subject. It has the potential to create a more interesting image. or 2 – take the photo as is and then zoom in later and crop. Photographing this way retains the integrity of the image and makes for both a cooler and more impressive shot.

9. Avoid using the selfie camera
Unless you’re obsessed with taking selfies, shooting any further than a short arm’s length away doesn’t make for quality images with the front lens. You may want to turn the selfie camera on to shoot yourself and see yourself in the photo while it snaps, but it won’t come out the way you hope. You’re better off setting the camera on a tripod and photographing yourself with the timer. The lens on the front of the camera isn’t as good as the one on the back.

10. Take action shots in burst mode
Burst mode is often overlooked! There’s no need for you to guess when it’s the right timing to take the shot and there’s often a delay. Hold down the shutter button and shoot away. You can go back and pick the photo with the best quality and edit from there.

 

If you’ve ever wanted to forget your swimsuit and the rest of your clothes for a week or more, head to St Martin.  St Martin is the French side of St. Maarten.  Live the nudist lifestyle amongst others who enjoy the same and have no shame doing so.  There is no shame in nudity is there?  No.

Orient Bay is predominantly featured in the video presentation at the beginning of this blog post.  And it’s at Orient Bay where you can be naked and no one cares because everyone else is naked, too.  There are a couple of other nudist areas in the Caribbean, but St. Martin is the best.

Hurricane Maria literally wiped out Club Orient, the nudist resort, but it is slowly being rebuilt.  The beach, however, remains open.

I never thought I’d write about nudity in public so enthusiastically.  I’m a rather reserved and conservative kind of guy.  When I talk to people about going to a nude resort and/or beach, I’m always met with nervous laughter or complete surprise that I’d do such a thing.  Such a thing?  

Here’s the deal about going to a nudist resort – it’s no big deal.  I will write about this topic in greater detail later in another blog post.  As there are images in the slideshow with hints of nudity, I’m touching upon the subject now.

There is much more to see and explore in St Martin.  The hilly terrain takes you through a lively landscape that you’ll thoroughly enjoy.  When you are high on a vista, you’ll see all the way to St Barths and Anguilla.  The views are incredible.

You can find a secluded beach and think you have your own private beach for the day.  The feeling of being alone on a stretch of sand with calm waves coming ashore is second to none.  Be who and what you are as you’ll be the only one there.

Almost all of the touristy sort of fare you’d expect to find on a Caribbean island is found on the Dutch side of the island which is St Maarten.  If you want shops, duty free shopping, nightclubs or a casino, you’ll need to drive across the island for that.

When I’ve visited St Martin, I’ve stayed mostly at Orient Bay to enjoy the abundant sunshine, white sand beach and the peace and quiet.

Photography is not allowed at the nude beach and rightly so.  There are plenty of other photo opportunities all throughout the island.  Consider the following iPhone travel photography tips for any tropical island you choose to visit –

1. Switch it up
Don’t stick to one photo orientation: For better options, take a vertical and a horizontal shot every time. On an iPhone, turn on the grid feature (in Settings, under Photos & Camera) for well-planned composition. You can capture more of the scene when you shoot horizontal, and the rule of thirds (a photography concept that says images that are divided evenly into thirds are more visually appealing) is more easily followed with the grid—just line up the point of interest with the gridlines. You want the focus of your photo to be at the intersections of the gridlines (four points near the center of the shot). Vertical shots may offer a different perspective, though, so take the time to do both! You never know which angle will prove most Insta-worthy. And, if you’re shooting for Instagram, it’s easiest to take a rectangular photo and then crop in—it gives you more options for your final post than a square shot might.

2. Use a filter
Polarizing filters on cameras cut out the glare and increase saturation and contrast in colors. You can’t get the same effect in editing, so consider investing in a lens filter that easily attaches to your phone. Or put the lens of polarized, clean sunglasses in front of your camera (hold them close!) and then shoot. Just know that whatever tint your sunglasses have may affect the final colors of your photo, but that can be adjusted in editing. If you’re on the clumsier side, you might want to enlist a friend to help hold the glasses in place while you shoot.

3. Shoot from the water line or underwater
Most pictures are taken from the beach looking into the water, but you can switch it up and take pictures from the water of the beach for an unexpected angle that’s all but guaranteed to bring in the likes. Pictures of the water from the water also pop in Instagram feeds—see the proof below. With some waterproof cases, this is easy enough, but for underwater photos (like when you’re snorkeling) make sure to get a pressurized case.

4. Find a composition anchor
Shots of water and sand are beautiful, but a pop of color from something like a bird, a sailboat, a palm tree, or a beach umbrella adds visual interest to any beach shot. Refer back to rule #1 for placement: You want your anchor to line up with the intersecting gridlines.

5. Use burst mode to catch great action shots
The burst mode on the iPhone can capture several photos within fractions of a second—all you have to do is hold the button when you take a picture. Use this function to capture crashing waves, jumping whales, or any other moving beach scenes. All the photos taken in the burst will be grouped together in your photos, so you can pick the best.

6. Check your exposure
Use the AE/AF lock on your iPhone to ensure the bright beach sun doesn’t overwhelm your photos. Select the brightest part of your photo and press/hold on the screen. Once the AE/AF lock is enabled, a yellow box will appear. Slide the exposure bar that appears next to the box up or down to get that bright beach day vista just right.

7. Stick to the shadows (or not)
Lighting is 99 percent of what makes a great image. Shadows can introduce great effects to a photo, but depending on what you’re shooting, you may want to avoid them. For objects, consider shooting in direct sunlight, so the shadows stand out and make your photo distinct. For people, consider shooting in the shade, or from under cover: The lighting won’t wash out your subjects or cause heavy shadows on their faces. And don’t get discouraged by a cloudy day at the beach (it makes for dreamy lighting).

8. Don’t zoom
The zoom function on most phone cameras only degrades the quality of the image. Instead of zooming, move as close to the subject of your photo as possible and explore it from different angles. Avoid zooming in when cropping your photos, too: This also makes the image fuzzy and lowers its quality.

9. Invest in a portable tripod
$40 seems like a small price to pay for a tripod (try the JOBY GorillaPod) that lets you actually appear in your photos. An added bonus is increased stability in all your photos, though in a pinch you can always use two hands when shooting for more stability and better focus.

10. Keep your lens clean
Salt air and the hot sun can create a film over your phone’s camera lens, so make sure you wipe it before taking photos—just be sure whatever you use is dry and sand-free (Coastal Living’s pros carry microfiber cloths with them, but a dry sleeve can work just fine). It’s worth the extra second of effort for clearer pictures!

11. Don’t forget video
Photos are amazing, but nothing beats listening to the sound of ocean waves when you’re back at work dreaming of another getaway. Filming horizontally is a must here, especially if you plan on uploading your videos to any social media platforms. (Note that Instagram stories and Snapchat look best with vertical video, though.)

12. Edit
There are countless apps out there that you can use to edit your photos, and Coastal Living’s photo pros recommend downloading at least one (try A Beautiful Mess, Photoshop, VSCO, Camera+, or ColorStory). Use them to slightly increase the contrast, reduce highlights, and bump your vibrance/saturation to make your photos pop. Slightly is key here: Over-edited photos can detract from the image itself and degrade its quality.

It is entirely possible that New York City was made for photographers.  Any photo you capture could easily say – This is New York.  If you are a keen street photographer, what I’ve just said is absolutely true.  

Strangely, I’ve always found NYC to be difficult to photograph.  Part of my problem is I’m accustomed to wide open spaces of Texas.  In New York everything is way up in the air and compact.  My other issue is I’ve never gone to New York with the intention of just taking photographs.  I’ve had no plan.  And, I’m unsure what interests me the most in the city to capture with my camera.  I’m never without a plan.

More importantly, I haven’t allowed myself enough time to properly photograph New York City.  It’s on my list of things to do.  And it does take time if you want to capture splendid photos.  This is true of anything you want to photograph.  

Instead, I’ve capture random shots with no rhyme or reason.  Most photographs were taken in Midtown which is a cool area of Manhattan.  Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station are all fantastic locations.  If you go out and about around three or four in the morning, there is a good chance you’ll have the city to yourself.  That’s not so good for street photography.

My best suggestion for New York City photography is go with a plan.  Know where you’re going and know what you want to photograph.  As always, be prepared for the unexpected as there are brilliant photos waiting to be taken when you least expect it.

Consider the following tips the next time you take your travel photos of New York City ::

Photography Is Legal Anywhere In Public
That means that if you’re taking a picture of someone or something and someone tells you not to, just remember that you’re within your legal rights. A cop can also not take your card away from you or legally tell you to delete a photo. Just remember: public space = total freedom.

Don’t Stop In The Middle of Swarming New Yorkers to Take a Picture
Not only is this dangerous as you’re throwing off the flow of traffic, but it will also get lots of people annoyed at you for doing this. Lots of tourists tend to just stop walking and make a total about face just to take a picture of something like the Empire State Building.  That’s very annoying.

Do Get Out of The Way
If you just step to the side of the on-flowing traffic to take the photo, you’ll be fine.  You won’t upset New Yorkers.

List of Places For Awesome New York City Photo Opportunities
Chinatown used to be worth it, but now it really isn’t.  Be sure to check out Little Italy on weekend nights, South St Seaport, the Top of Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, the High Line, Fort Tryon Park, the USS Intrepid and the West Side Promenade. Additionally, the World Financial Center and Ground Zero offer great photo opps.

Thoroughly Plan Out Your Trips
During the vacation season, New York City becomes very congested with people.  Chances are that you’re going to use MTA’s services like the subway and buses.  Have a map with you and plan the trip out thoroughly so that you’ll get there quickly, safely and without spending lots of money going back and forth on the lines. New York’s Subways offer lots of photo opportunities as well.  Yes, it’s legal.

Remember Times Square Was Re-Designed For You
In summer of 2009, Times Square got transformed into a “Pedestrian Mall.” Most New Yorkers don’t hang out in Times Square unless they’re taking advantage of the lounge chairs. This area was designed for tourists to come take pictures, spend money, and meet lots of crazy folks like the Naked Cowboy, SpongeBob Squarepants and others.

NYC is A Lot Safer Than You Think
New York City is one of the safest cities in the US because of high security, so you shouldn’t really have to worry about being robbed, etc.  However, do exercise caution and common sense. And trust your instincts.

Do Read Your Manual on How to Use Your Camera
Lots of tourists buy a new camera for the journey and don’t read their manuals.  They also don’t know how to actually use their cameras or even to the fullest potential.  You should really read your manual or carry it around.  Better yet, test out your new camera before you travel.

Bangkok is a world of wonder whether you are visiting for the first time or return for multiple visits.  This is Bangkok – a city with so much activity and is overcrowded beyond comprehension that you can’t help but fall in love.  Rich and dramatic historical sights such as The Grand Palace will send you into cultural overload while the tall modern architecture reminds you that you’re in a cosmopolitan city.  

It is safe to say the city is one that you could visit ten times and still not see everything you want to see.    Take it slow and take in small portions so you can take it in and absorb it.  It’s guaranteed you’ll find travel photo opportunities almost everywhere you turn.

Bangkok is a city to add at the top of your dream travel destinations.  It is also a city where mobile phone cameras might be better suited for trekking around rather than carrying a large bulky DSLR.  The video in this particular blog post shows only a small morsel of what Bangkok has to offer.   What’s more is each image included in the travel video was captured with an iPhone.

If you’re keen to learn more about how to capture great travel photos with your own mobile telephone, consider the following tips :

iPhone Travel Photography Tips

1. Use a Tripod

Carry a compact and lightweight tripod that can be placed almost anywhere.  Small tripods are great for self-portraits or when you are shooting in low light like at dusk or at night.  You can also use a stabilizer or selfie stick to steady your iPhone to take sharper photos.  The recent iPhones provide great low-light shooting features, but having the camera stabilized will certainly help with image sharpness.  Blurry photos aren’t cool unless you intend them to be that way.

Useful tip: When taking a self-portrait or a group shot that you want to be in, use the iPhone camera’s self-timer.  The self-timer is also good if you want to avoid camera shake.

2. Grid Lines

Nothing says amateur like a crooked horizon line.  You will want to align the landscape so that it is perfectly straight. Also, turning on the grid lines will allow you to work better with the rule-of-thirds, providing guides to compose your shot.  Having the grid toggled on will definitely help you with your composition skills.  On the iPhone, the grid lines are quite discreet and will not distract your view.

How-to: Go to your settings and click on camera then toggle the grid to on.

3. To Flash or Not to Flash

The iPhone flash is to be used sparingly and only when necessary.  The iPhone camera has many great features, but the flash is not one of them.  In fact, I rarely use the flash on my iPhone.

You can use the flash outdoors when the sun is high and is creating harsh shadows.  This can be unappealing, especially when photographing people. The flash will fill in the light a little and smooth out any dark shadows that are created.

Using the iPhone flash is hit-or-miss.  I prefer to use as much natural light as possible, or, when needed use another source of light like a flashlight to position extra light on my subject.

4. Focus and Exposure

To get a well-focused shot, tap your screen where you want the camera to focus.  You can also lock your focus point by tapping and holding it.  An AE/AF Lock sign will appear; you can then recompose your shot while the iPhone camera remains exposed for the focal point you specified.

You can change the exposure of your shot directly in the iPhone camera app.  Slide the exposure button that appears once you’ve activated the focus point (the little sun icon) up or down.  Sliding up is especially helpful in low light situations or at night.

5. Photo Editing Apps

Once you have a photo that you really like and want to take it up a notch, you can use photo editing apps, software, and filters to make it the best that it can be.  You don’t have to learn complex software in order to edit your photos.  A user-friendly photo editor like Photolemur will make your photos look professional with a few simple clicks.

Try transforming some of your images into black & white photographs with the filters provided in the iPhone camera app, or Photolemur Mono Style.

Useful tip: Be careful not to over-edit or apply too many filters.  This can make your photographs look unreal and over-worked.  The filters provided in the iPhone camera app are fun to use and were very trendy for a while, but sometimes less is best.

6. HDR

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and the iPhone uses this to create well exposed images.  It snaps several shots at different exposures and merges them together to create a well exposed final photo.  Sometimes it can create an image that looks unreal, but it usually produces a good photo.  You can turn the HDR feature on or off on your iPhone in the settings.

7. Attachable Lenses

Many companies are producing lenses that you can attach to your iPhone providing more versatility to your camera phone.  Some will give you the option to zoom or do macro shots, and others will provide a wide-angle or fisheye.

Useful tip: Zooming in with your iPhone will considerably lower the quality and sharpness of the photo and can even create camera shake.  This is where an attachable zoom lens comes in handy.  Also, if you like to do food photography, then an attachable macro lens would be a great gadget to have.

8. Observe Colors

When traveling, always be on the lookout for pops of color or contrasts between colors.  A bright blue sky against a colorful building can offer up a great image opportunity.  The iPhone HDR feature comes in very handy when shooting contrasts of colors that are in different light.

9. Use the Shooting Modes

Your iPhone offers various shooting modes; from square to pano.  The latest iPhone models come with a portrait mode that lets you shoot with a shallower depth of field, making the background blurry and the focus on the object.

Useful tip: Remember that Instagram photos are displayed square.  If this is your eventual destination for your photos, shooting in square mode will help you keep total control of your composition.

10. Tell a Story

Don’t just shoot photos.  When you are traveling, there are countless opportunities for taking great photographs. Take the time to observe your surroundings.  Look at people going about their daily lives. I find that markets and places where local people mingle tend to be interesting places to get photos that transform into authentic stories.

With iPhones continually improving and offering better camera feature functions, it’s normal that even professional photographers now shoot travel photos with iPhone cameras.