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The Caribbean.  An Island.  Abundant Sunshine.  Beaches.  Crystal clear blue or turquoise waters.  Maybe a few umbrella cocktails.  This is Curaçao.

Do I love Curaçao?  I’ve been twice and each time I was on the island for a month.  I also explored every inch of the island.  Again, do I love Curaçao?  No.  I didn’t even love it the first time  I visited.  Why did I return a second time?  Good question.  

The only reason I can come up with for a second visit is the resort where I stayed was closed so the owner could go on holiday himself.  He agreed to let me stay so I literally had the resort to myself.   I arrived, he gave me the keys, he left the next day and I left the resort keys under a bush when I myself left a month later.

Will you find beaches and plenty of sunshine in Curaçao?  Of course you will tho’ I wouldn’t give any beach rave reviews.  The turtles are cool except the tourists who chase turtles aren’t so cool.  I saw that happen plenty of times.  

There are three beaches on the north side of the island that are off the beaten path.  Locals are really the only ones who are aware of these secluded beaches and they are not easily accessible.  You have to know where you’re going and be prepared for a lengthy and bumpy ride.  Once you’re there, you’ll basically have the small beaches to yourself.  If you want to go au natural, go for it.  I did and had a relaxing time and I did this more than once.

Otherwise, there isn’t much to Curaçao.  The capital city isn’t so exciting and you’ll find typical high priced tourist fare one after another.  A drive around the main road is nice for a relaxing day out.  Any good restaurants are few and far between.  The large refinery as a backdrop isn’t so tropical beautiful nor is it 

One would think Curaçao is one of my top go-to destinations but that’s only because you’ll find numerous blog posts about the island on this blog.  Let me just say – when you stay on an island for a total of two months, you know a lot about the island and can write a lot about it.

I’ll add this as well – when you go where the locals go, don’t expect a friendly reception.  I’m an unassuming kind of guy.  I’m quiet and reserved and more than respectful to anyone I meet.  I say this to say I’m not a loud obnoxious tourist.  Unfortunately, I was met with a lot of looks of disdain and downright rudeness.   Locals who work in the shops, hotels and restaurants will, of course, be kind to you.

Will I return to Curaçao again?  More than likely I will not.

Wherever you travel you’ll want to capture some fantastic travel photos.  Consider the following tips for your next adventure wherever it might be.

1. You should almost never use flash …
Natural lighting is more flattering for photos.

Not only does flash wash out skin tones, it also gives iPhone photos an artificial look.

Take advantage of good lighting.

While the iPhone flash can provide the light you need in a pinch,  it’s often too bright and leaves the background underexposed (i.e., too dark)

Quite frankly,I would only use a flash if there is practically no light … like in a power outage.

2.  never use digital zoom.
Instead of zooming in, get closer to your subject.

One of the biggest mistakes you could make while taking pictures with your iPhone is zooming in.

Basically, if you zoom in with your iPhone camera, you end up losing a lot of data … and wind up with a low-resolution photo.

Instead,  get closer to your subject,  Learn to zoom with your feet.

4. In low-light conditions, adjust the exposure on your iPhone camera before taking a picture.
Don’t rely on the iPhone’s autoexposure feature.

You can change the exposure level on your iPhone camera before taking a picture.  To take a good picture in bad lighting, start by tapping the brightest spot you see on your screen.

A small yellow box with a sun icon will pop up to mark your focal point and default exposure level.

To make your image brighter or darker, tap and swipe up or down without lifting your finger to increase or decrease exposure. You should see the sun icon move up or down with your finger.

In general, adjusting exposure gives you more control over your shot.
The exposure adjustment feature also comes in handy when taking pictures of high-contrast scenes, such as landscapes.
Adjusting exposure levels helps you get the perfect shot.

Adjust the exposure level  if you’ve got a scene with really bright areas and really dark areas that the iPhone’s autoexposure sensor may have a hard time balancing out.

5. Another easy way to balance exposure is to use the iPhone’s HDR feature.

The HDR feature on your iPhone automatically combines three pictures of the same scene — one slightly underexposed, one normally exposed, one slightly overexposed — into one optimized shot.

The HDR feature is handy in extreme lighting situations where the scene has deep shadows and bright, bright highlights.  Use HDR in the late afternoon and evening when the light gets a little low.

Then, tap “Auto” or “On.”  If you choose “Auto,” your iPhone camera will automatically analyze a scene and turn on HDR as needed.  If you choose “On,” your
iPhone camera will permanently shoot in HDR mode until you turn it off.
6. Take better photos by following the natural lines of objects in your shots.
Line up your shot with your subject matter.

Follow lines in your horizon.  Follow lines from buildings and structures.

7.  AN EASY WAY TO FOLLOW LINES IS TO TURN ON THE GRID LINES

Grid lines can help guide your shot.

Simply go to Settings > Photos & Camera on your iPhone and tap the toggle next to “Grid” to turn on grid lines.

When you open your iPhone camera app, you should see lines that split your screen into nine rectangles of equal size. To make sure your photos are straight, just line up objects in your shot with the lines in the grid.

These grid lines are “great” for iPhone compositions.

8. Use the iPhone’s autofocus feature to control the subject of your shot.
Use the AE/AF Lock to make sure your subject is always in focus.

When you tap on your iPhone screen to set your focal point, you also set your shot’s exposure level by default. Learning how to separate focus from exposure, however, lets you control the subject of your shot.

For example, if you’re taking a picture of your friend, and someone walks by in the background, your iPhone camera may automatically focus on that stranger.

To make sure your subject is always in focus, tap and hold on the screen to lock your camera’s focal point. You should see a yellow rectangle pop up on the screen that says AE/AF Lock.

9. Use Burst mode when taking selfies or portraits.
Get the perfect shot with the iPhone’s Burst mode.

An overlooked feature on the iPhone is Burst mode lets you take several pictures in rapid succession at once.

To take bursts, just tap and hold the capture button on your iPhone camera screen.  Burst mode is perfect for [capturing] fast moving and fast changing situations.

10. To keep your camera steady, use the volume button to take a picture instead of pressing your iPhone screen.
An easy way to avoid taking blurry pictures.

A steady hand is so important when taking pictures with your iPhone.

A simple and very effective way to avoid shaking your camera is to take a photo using your iPhone’s volume key. Instead of tapping the capture button on your iPhone screen, which can shake your camera, hold your phone horizontally with both hands and press either the volume up or volume down button.

11. Even better, try using the volume button on a pair of your headphones.
Put your Apple headphones to good use.

If you have wired Apple EarPods, press the volume up or down button on your headphones to snap a photo when your iPhone camera app is open, Darren Boyd recommends.

This may also work with other compatible headphones, although you should check before buying a pair for this purpose.

12. Or use your Apple Watch to take better selfies and group shots.
Make the most out of your Apple Watch

The default photo app on the Apple Watch is very handy when organizing selfies, group shots, and long exposures.

To use your Apple Watch to take better iPhone photos from afar, open the camera app on your iPhone.  Then, open the camera app on your Apple Watch.

This will turn your Apple Watch into a remote display that shows a live view of your iPhone camera. Finally, tap the shutter button, the timer button, or the burst button to take a picture, take a timed picture, or take a series of pictures in burst mode, respectively.

You can even tap your Apple Watch screen to focus your iPhone camera remotely.

What more could I say about White Sands in Southern New Mexico except This IS White Sands?   I’ve posted so many articles about the great white sand dunes found unexpectedly amongst the Chihuahua Desert.

The dunes are like an oasis in the middle of a brown desert.  They are more than crystals of gypsum.  They are more than curvaceous free formed dunes.  They are more than a stark and surreal landscape.

White Sands will touch your soul, if you let it.  Be prepared to let go of whatever troubles you and I can guarantee all of your problems will go away.  Everything is right in the world with each step you take.  The rough terrain may appear to be unforgiving, but you’ll be forgiven for whatever ails you.  

I’m serious.  These white sand dunes have a  healing power unlike most other landscapes in the world.  I say this with confidence as I’ve been around the world many times in my time.

The wind whispers in your ear and tells you everything will be ok.  Climbing a massive dune reminds you life can indeed be a struggle at times, but you will reach the top.  There is no other choice.  Each step you take in the incline also pushes you a foot behind.  You keep going, however, because giving up is not an option.  When you do reach the top of the mighty sand dune, you’re wrong to think you have nowhere else to go.  Instead, you accept another dune’s challenge and climb again.  And, that’s life.

It may sound odd to think such a simple landscape can teach you about life, comfort you or even help to solve your problems.  White Sands helped me when my father suddenly passed away.   White Sands is also the place I went to when I was coming to terms with living with HIV.   Every time I go into White Sands National Park with a problem I leave with the problem solved.  One could say it’s my touching stone.

If you are keen to capturing stunning travel photos with your iPhone, consider the following tips :: 

1.  Hold Your Phone Just Like You Hold Your Camera.

Use two hands to hold your iPhone just like you would with your DSLR or Point and Shoot. This extra stability will keep the camera from shaking and give you more control of your shots. Also imagine your iPhone screen as the viewfinder, like the one on your DSLR. When you see people shooting iPhone pictures they are always holding their phone out in front of them at a ridiculous angle and doing some strange straight-armed, head back, robot style movements.

2.  Pay Close Attention to Light

Light with any camera is important, but a cell phone camera has such a small image sensor it is even more important. The lower the light the more grainy your images will become. Unless you are taking photos of the sun and the sea keep the light behind you and your subject well lit. Don’t let this stop you from shooting night and dusk photo’s those, sometimes with the right angle and light you can get some amazing darker shots.

3.  Play Around And Experiment

None of these tips and tricks will be worth a damn if you don’t experiment and try things out. Spend a day and just go out and shoot. You will quickly learn how much light you need in certain situations, what produces blur, grain and a whole world of other problems that lead to your bad iPhone pictures.

4.  Zoom In With Your Feet and Not the iPhone Zoom

If you want to shoot something close up actually walk up to it, get close and click. The iPhone starts losing quality even with a tiny bit of zooming and it becomes really grainy and pixelated. Because the iPhone uses a digital zoom instead of an optical zoom like your point and shoot or DSLR may have, it is basically just cropping the photo in realtime.

5.  Take More Than One Photo 

The great thing about digital photography is it allows for a lot of attempts and a lot of mistakes. Add to that benefit, the speed and ease of a camera phone and you have the opportunity to take a few shots so one of them will be good. You can just take multiple shots of the same thing and one of them will be vastly better than the others.

Be careful though, you don’t want to delete those shots you think are no good when you are out and about because often when you get home the things you thought looked rubbish on your phone screen actually turn into interesting things on your computer monitor.

6.  Try Different Angles

The iPhone is so small and easy to use that you can get get down low and dirty with it or you can point it up and high really easily. You can move right on in to a shell or a flower and you can get it into awkward places and positions that would be more difficult to get to with a regular camera. So move it in bundles of different angles to see what you get.

7.  Keep The Camera Lens Clean.  Always Clean

All that sweat and grim on your hands will no doubt get all over your iPhone and all over the camera lens. I didn’t do this for ages and I don’t do it enough now still. Keep a cloth with you or wipe it clear with your sleeve and you may find your pictures come out much sharper and less blurry and foggy.

8.  Keep It Simple.  Avoid Clutter

Don’t have too much going on in your photo. This is one of the reasons a lot of phone photos are still fairly good even though they are pretty grainy and not even in the same league in sharpness and quality as a DSLR camera shot. This allows you to get away with a lot. Keeping one main subject and a scene where you want all/most of it in focus are best. This is how I take almost all of my photos with my iPhone.

9.  Avoid Using the Touch Screen Shutter Button

Did you know with your iPhone you can take a picture with the “+” volume button?  Go on, try it out. You can also use the “+” volume button on your Apple headphones as well. By using either of these methods you reduce the chance that you are going to shake or move the camera while snapping your pictures. This is a big deal when take nighttime shots.

10.  Use The Camera’s Grid Lines

If you touch “Options” on the top of the screen while in your “Camera” app it will bring up a menu that says “Grid” and “HDR.” Slide the “Grid” slider to on and you will see that a grid now shows on your screen. This is perfect for lining up shots such as a horizon or edge of a building. It also will help you use the rule of thirds to produce more interesting and artist photos.

11.  Use The HDR Function

HDR is a range of techniques geared toward representing more contrast in pictures. Non-HDR cameras take pictures at a single exposure level with a limited contrast range. This results in the loss of detail in bright or dark areas of a picture, depending on whether the camera had a low or high exposure setting. HDR compensates for this loss of detail by taking multiple pictures at different exposure levels and intelligently stitching them together so that we get a picture that is representative in both dark and bright areas.

As I stated above if you touch “Options” on the top of the screen while in your “Camera” app it will bring up a menu that says “Grid” and “HDR.” Slide the “HDR” slider to on and your iPhone will now take 3 photo’s at different exposures and stitch them together for a more properly exposed image. Using this doesn’t always guarantee a better pictures, so try it out and see what works for you.

12.  Tap To Focus

You can tap anywhere on the screen to focus (a blue square will come up on the display). This not only focuses on the area that you touch (which may already seem clear in your display), but also adjusts the exposure and white balance automatically for the main area of your image. This also works for the video camera as well.

13.  Lock It In.  Use AE/AF Lock

Launch the camera app and get your subject in the frame. Tap the object/person you want to focus on and hold your finger on the screen for a few seconds and then release your finger after the blue focus square pulsates. The square will disappear and AE/AF Lock will appear at the bottom of the screen. The times I find this feature most helpful is when taking photos of moving objects like people, cars or animals. Anytime a subject is moving the camera wants to refocus, even if it’s just a head turn. I’ve lost a countless number of shots because of this. Now I just trigger the AE/AF lock and snap away.

14.  Color

Color can be a powerful allie when shooting photos. Shooting a sky with just a red umbrella in the frame or a women with a bright blue dress on in a sea of people wearing black and really make your subject pop. So look for scenarios where one particular color stands out from the rest, you’ll be amazed at how artistic your photo will looks.

For me to say This is Sri Lanka, I’d only be telling you half the story of this unique island off the coast of India.  I made a mistake in Sri Lanka that I rarely make when I travel.  I made a reservation at a hotel in Colombo and that’s the only plan I made.

Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka and it’s not the most desirable city in the world.  The hotel where I stayed was also being renovated so I was jolted awake every morning by the sound of a jackhammer.  I’m an easy going kind of guy and I go with the flow wherever I am in this world.  But the bang bang bang wake up call was a bit much even for me.  And, there was no way out of the reservation.  I tried.

So, I found a small beach resort near Galle in the southeast corner of Sri Lanka and I parked myself there until it was near time to leave.  This sounds like a bad attitude to have, but the truth is I just wanted peace and quiet.  I wanted to vegetate on a beach.  And, so I did.

By taking the action I did, I missed out on what Sri Lanka truly has to offer.  I have good reason to return one day to properly explore.

All that said, I was dropped in the middle of a Sri Lanka jungle as the beach resort was overbooked a couple of nights.  Going with the flow as I normally do, I went along and had an experience I’ll never forget.  The jungle was great and I still got the peace and quiet I was seeking save for the unknown creature sounds in the middle of the night.

As with any travel destination you’ll want to take great photos.  Consider the following travel photo tips:

Use the camera grid

The “rule of thirds” is a theory that images are more aesthetically appealing when the main subject lies one third of the way across, and down, your image – it makes an image more interesting than if you put the subject square in the middle. To help you with this there is an option to place a grid of thirds over your viewfinder screen. The button to turn this on isn’t found in the camera app itself but rather the “Photos & Camera” tab in the settings app.

It also has a bonus effect – the straight line helps put an end to images with distracting wonky horizons.

Boost the contrast

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a feature that quickly takes three photos with different settings and combines them in order to get better contrast. This prevents parts of your image being over and under exposed. For instance, you could take a picture from inside a car on a sunny day and the interior of the car and the bright sky would both be visible. With a normal picture you would either find the sky washed out or the car a black smudge.

It gets an unfair reputation for producing overly dramatic shots that look digitally manipulated, but the iPhone does a relatively subtle job. Turn it on by tapping the “HDR on” option in the camera app. After you press the shutter you’ll have to wait a second or two for the processor to combine the images into one.

Don’t zoom

Often you’ll find yourself some distance from what you want to photograph, and it’s tempting to use the zoom. Don’t. The iPhone comes with a digital zoom only, meaning that all you do when you zoom in is crop your image – no extra information is recorded. So while the subject that was filling only a tiny fraction of your image is now filling the whole photo, it’ll be grainy and washed-out.

With a larger, dedicated camera you may have an optical zoom that could get you closer to the action. But on a phone camera the only way to do this is literally get closer to the action – get nearer to your subject.

Unusual angles

While phone cameras are limiting in some ways, they’re liberating in others. Their small size allows you to easily get creative shots. Most images are taken at shoulder height simply because that’s where it feels most natural to hold a camera. Get inventive with your angles: shoot from low down or high up. The results can be much more interesting.

Take a few shots

A lot of phone photography comes down to luck, and you’re three or four times more likely to get lucky if you take three or four photographs. Once you’ve got your phone out and composed a picture, you may as well press the shutter button a few times. Maybe in one of them all your subjects will even have their eyes open at the same time.

WIPE THE LENS

Unlike an expensive camera, which gets treated with kid gloves and placed in its own padded bag with a proper lens cover, your phone just gets shoved in a pocket or handbag. Consequently, the lens is likely to get a bit mucky. Get in the habit of giving it a wipe with a tie, soft corner of clothing or napkin before you take a shot and you’ll find your photographs much clearer.