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The Gentleman Wayfarer

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The call to prayer, also known as Adhan, in Istanbul.  Istanbul for me is one of the fascinating cities in the world.  This is a city to which I always want to return.

The sound of the ice cream truck would jolt many back to their childhood.  For me, the sound of Adhan transports me right back to my family’s villa in Tripoli Libya.  Tripoli is where I grew up and the mosque was right around the corner from home.  Yes, travel and being immersed in cultures foreign to my own started early for me.

Five times a day the muezzin would summon Muslims to worship and the sound beamed from the minaret high above the mosque.  At first, the sound was shocking until it became a normal part of the day.  Being a kid I called it the sound of the wounded moose.  Today, it’s a melodic sound placing me back on the marble floors playing with my hot wheels.

What is Adhan?
In Arabic, the word ‘Athan’ is to call or to inform.  Religiously, it is a call made to inform people that the time of the prayer has begun. It is obligatory for the congregation in the mosque while for individuals praying alone at home, for example, it is a highly preferred act. It begins by proclaiming the greatness and oneness of Allah and the denial of disbelief and polytheism, testifying to the messengers of Muhammad and then calling to a prosperity which is everlasting, pointing to the return to Allah.

The ‘Iqamah’ is the second and final Call to Prayer and is uttered immediately before the beginning of the obligatory prayer indicating that it is actually time to perform the prayer.

Istanbul was the first place for me to hear Adhan since leaving Libya.  I remember stopping in my tracks as a broad smile swept across my face.  Funny how this happens.  As I travel far and deep, I hear the call to Adhan more often.  The feeling simply doesn’t change.

 

Destination:  Istanbul Turkey

There are obvious reasons to Love London – the ones the tourists flock to the city to find.  Big Ben, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and the list goes on and on.

Are there more meaningful reasons to adore London?  In the video above I explore 24 reasons to love London.  My reasons aren’t superficial, but ones you can’t really see or capture with a camera.  Do you get a feeling when you are in London?

My List of 24 Meaningful Reasons To Love London
::  It’s a city of infinite possibilities.
::  You don’t have to travel far to see a famous landmark.
::  London gives you the freedom to be who you are and be what you want to be.
::  London IS the universe and you’re in the middle of it.
::  The remarkable feeling of walking over the Thames River at night.
::  The contrast between old and new; what came before and the future.
::  The buzz and the endless energy of London.
::  There are stories and history at every turn you take in London.
::  Sometimes being in London is like walking around in a movie.
::  There are endless creative opportunities in London.
::  The Royal Family (i’m not convinced of this one).
::  No matter how long you’ve been in London, there is always a new place to discover.
::  There are monuments to everything that ever happened in London.
::  Culturally, London is a mecca.  You’re blessed with culture no matter where you go.
::  London is as international as it is British.
::  When you’re in London, you can choose a life of adventure.
::  You’ll never be bored in London even if you have nothing to do.
::  London welcome eccentricity.
::  Old London architecture is some of the finest in the world.  The verdict is out regarding modern buildings.
::  There are quiet spots to escape to amongst the hustle and bustle.
::  When you’re in London, you imagination expands beyond comprehension.
::  Whether or not you like The Shard, it does have stunning views you shouldn’t miss.
::  We might loathe the London Underground, but it’s a marvel of engineering.
::  London’s double-decker buses are not only iconic, but they’re cool.

I can easily say everything I learned I learned from London.  This city opened my eyes and broadened my way of thinking.  During university days, I saw two men kissing in Earl’s Court Road outside the Underground Station.   I had never seen this before in public.  You can imagine my fascination with this public display. Multiple languages, different dress styles and a freedom of expression far surpassed anything I’d experienced elsewhere.

Museums, theatre and even store windows inspired me to learn more and explore creativity beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving.  London taught me to push myself further, test my limits and stretch them to new heights.

The American in me says I can be anything I want to be.  London taught me I will be anything I want and not care what others think.  London touched me at an early age and continues to do so today.

24 Reasons to Love London.  What are your reasons to love London?

view of london from primrose hill

Destination:  London

The Unofficial guide to being a man:

Stop talking about where you went to college.
Always carry cash. Keep some in your front pocket.
Rebel from business casual. Burn your khakis and wear a suit or jeans.
It’s ok to trade the possibility of your 80s and 90s for more guaranteed fun in your 20s and 30s.
Never stay out after midnight three nights in a row… Unless something really good comes up on the third night.
You will regret your tattoos.
Never date an ex of your friend.
Join Twitter; become your own curator of information.
If riding the bus doesn’t incentivise you to improve your station in life, nothing will.
Time is too short to do your own laundry.
When the bartender asks, you should already know what you want to drink.
If you perspire, wear a damn undershirt.

Hookers aren’t cool, but remember, the free ones are a lot more expensive.
When people don’t invite you to a party, you really shouldn’t go.
 And sometimes even when you are invited, you shouldn’t go.
People are tired of you being the funny, drunk guy.
When in doubt, always kiss the girl.
Tip more than you should.
You probably use your mobile phone too often and at the wrong moments.
Buy expensive sunglasses. Superficial? Yes, but so are the women judging you. And it tells these women you appreciate nice things and are responsible enough not to lose them.
Do 50 push-ups, sit-ups, and dips before you shower each morning.
Eat brunch with friends at least every other weekend. Leave Rusty and Junior at home.
Be a regular at more than one bar.
Act like you’ve been there before. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the end zone at the Super Bowl or on a private plane.
A glass of wine or two with lunch will not ruin your day.

Learn how to fly-fish.
No selfies. Aspire to experience photo-worthy moments in the company of a beautiful woman.
Own a handcrafted shotgun. It’s a beautiful thing.
There’s always another level. Just be content knowing that you are still better off than most who have ever lived.
You can get away with a lot more if you’re the one buying the drinks.
Ask for a salad instead of fries.
Don’t split a check.
Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.
When a bartender buys you a round, tip double.
Be spontaneous.
Find a Times New Roman in the streets and a Wingdings in the sheets. She exists.
Piercings are liabilities in fights.

Do not use an electric razor.
Desserts are for women. Order one and pretend you don’t mind that she’s eating yours.
Buy a tuxedo before you are 30. Stay that size.
One girlfriend at a time is probably enough.
#StopItWithTheHastags
Your ties should be rolled and placed in a sectioned tie drawer.
Throw parties. 
But have someone else clean up the next day.
Measure yourself only against your previous self.
Take more pictures. With a camera.
Place-dropping is worse than name dropping.
Your clothes do not match. They go together.
Yes, of course, you have to buy her dinner.

Staying angry is a waste of energy.
If she expects the person you are 20% of the time, 100% of the time, then she doesn’t want you.
Always bring a bottle of something to the party.
Don’t use the word “closure” or ever expect it in real life.
If you are wittier than you are handsome, avoid loud clubs.
Date women outside your social set. You’ll be surprised.
If it’s got velvet ropes and lines, walk away unless you know someone.
You cannot have a love affair with whiskey because whiskey will never love you back.
If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works.
No-one cares if you are offended, so stop it.

Never take an ex back. She tried to do better and is settling with you.
Eating out alone can be magnificent. Find a place where you can sit at the bar.
Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting at a dinner party — provided that you don’t initiate conversation with, “So, who are you reading…”
Ignore the boos. They usually come from the cheap seats.
Don’t ever say, “it is what it is.”
Don’t gamble if losing $US100 is going to piss you off.
Remember, “rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”

https://youtu.be/eLg3kFI9bD8

Mastering aperture takes time and a lot of practice.  This partly because the aperture you select affects your other camera settings, especially shutter speed if you want your photo to be properly exposed.

For your images for this Backgrounds Photo Composition Exercise, set your camera to AV (Aperture Value).  This will allow you to select the aperture each time while your camera chooses the correct shutter speed for the light available.   Keep everything else on automatic, including the ISO, until you feel confident.

Go outside – perhaps in your garden or a public park and choose a wide range of apertures.  Your goal is to produce photos where the background is soft and dreamy.  The background will lack detail.   Other images you take will result in the background being pin sharp.

Start at the lowest F number (such as f 3.5 or 5.6) and keep changing the aperture until you reach the highest F number (f 16  f22, etc…)

You will take a photo at each F-Stop or number.

When you are satisfied, compare your photos at the different aperture settings.

Do note with longer focal lengths the depth of field (the amount in focus) will lessen.

When you have completed the Backgrounds Challenge, please share your images with me on Twitter.  My Twitter home is @ACuriousGent

Always keep your photographic eye open while walking along the south side of the River Thames. From Westminster Bridge all the way to Tower Bridge (and beyond) you’re guaranteed remarkable views, more iconic London sights than you could ever hope to see in one go and simply a great walk.

When people visit London for the first time, I always recommend this very same walk. There are countless reasons to include south of the River Thames as one of the best places to photograph London because of all the photographic opportunities.

Plan to spend all day or an entire evening along the river path. If you are adventurous and a night owl, start late in the evening and work your way along the Thames into the wee hours of the morning. The area is safe. I’ve done this many times.

The photos included in this post are only one example of what can be captured. There is plenty more, guaranteed.

Where did I take these photos?

Enjoy Your Walk.

If it is possible for a landscape to touch the soul, then White Sands is the place.  Large white gypsum sand blows across the Tularosa Basin forming various types of dune formations.  White Sands is a vast sea of white in the brown Chihuahuan Desert with the Sacramento Mountains in the background.  A bit out of the way, but not too far if you want to be left speechless by a brilliant landscape.

Why should White Sands be on your travel list?  There are the obvious reasons:  the unimaginable landscape, the coolness of the sand, or the large patch of white in the otherwise brown Chihuahua Desert.

Then there are my deeper reasons for those in a quest to find something extraordinary.  

My List Of Why White Sands Should Be On Your Travel List:

:: Your mind will travel miles away from everyday life.

::  White Sands will touch deep within your soul.

:: You’ll notice every breath and hear your every step.

:: The silence will let you hear your thoughts.

:: You’ll better understand the power of nature.

:: You can test your strength inside and out.

:: No better place to get yourself centred.

:: One of the most amazing landscapes you’ll ever see.

Consider these ten interesting facts about White Sands National Monument ::

1. The White Sands National Monument is made up entirely of gypsum crystals that form dunes that stretch over 275 square miles.

2. The park is on the Register of Historic Places and can be found in any New Mexico travel guide.

3. The idea to make this area a National Park was first thought of way back in 1898.

4. The White Sands National Monument is completely surrounded by military installations and is periodically closed for a few hours at a time while they carry out testing.

5. Located in the Tularosa Basin, the park and the dunes are fully enclosed; there is no outlet to water of any kind, so the gypsum never gets dissolved in water.

6. Four marked trails allow visitors to explore the dunes on foot; guided tours are also available where a Ranger leads the expedition.

7. Visitors can go sledding year-round at the park. Sleds are available for purchase at the visitor centre and you can spend the day having fun in the sun.

8. The site of the first atomic bomb detonation is located on the northern boundary of the National Park.

9. Gypsum, what makes up the dunes is actually a clear substance; the dunes appear white like snow because the gypsum grains are constantly banging into each other. The scratches then reflect the sun’s rays making them look white.

10. Gypsum doesn’t absorb heat from the sun, so even on the hottest day of the year; the dunes are cool and comfortable to walk on.

I’ve written extensively about White Sands on this blog and this landscape dominates my last book, El Paso 120.  Rest assured there is more to come.

Destination:  White Sands National Monument

Stephen Sondheim wrote a marvellous song for “Company” titled “Another Hundred People.”  Company is one of my all-time favourite Sondheim shows.  A few of the lyrics of the song include:  
“Another hundred people just got off of the train,
And came up through the ground,
While another hundred people just got off of the bus,
And are looking around
At another hundred people who got off of the plane,
And are looking at us,
Who got off of the train,
And the plane, and the bus,
Maybe yesterday.”

Whenever I’m in Liverpool Street Station, I think of Sondheim’s song.  If you’ve never listened to “Another Hundred People,” do check it out. The song not only reminds me of trains and all of the people getting on and off trains but London in general.  Londoners are busy and they fiercely guard their precious time.  If only I had a pound for every time I’ve heard – “let me check my diary…”

That said, here is another busy day at Liverpool Street Station in London.  It is interesting to stand above and watch how people navigate and weave through one another.  Why doesn’t anyone bump into another?  During busier times the people dodging one another look like scrambling ants on the ground.

Off the top of my head, I can think of only two train stations in London where you can stand above and watch the mad rush of commuters on the main floor below.  One station is Victoria Station and the other is Liverpool Station.

Being an observer of society, I enjoy catching the view of people interacting even if they are not directly engaging with one another.  It’s almost like a human race or maze.  People weave in, weave out.  Some people abruptly stop without ever thinking someone might be behind them.  All the while no one seems to collide, trip or fall.  How does this happen, I wonder?

For those of you wanting to either photograph or capture video at a London train station or Underground station, do beware.  Many London stations are privately owned, which means you are capturing private property.  If security or a station manager finds you, you will be told to stop.  In my case, the station manager at Waterloo Station (who was also not very pleasant) called the police making a mountain out of a nothing at all.

The outside of the station is sort of interesting, which you can see in the photos below ::

I was laying on the ground to capture this image.  As luck would have it, a London policeman stood over me before he realised I was neither hurt nor drunk.

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10 Gentlemanly Tips for Avoiding Jet Lag

Most travellers try to make the most of their limited time overseas, yet fail to take into account the leap in time zones they make in a matter of hours. It can take your body’s internal clock several days to catch up to that leap, and in the meantime, you’re likely to experience the disruption of your sleeping and waking cycle known as jet lag. Symptoms of jet lag include sleepiness during the day, insomnia at night, poor concentration, confusion, hunger at inappropriate times or lack of appetite, and general malaise and irritability.

photo of old luggage tags

Ten Tips to Fight Jet Lag.

1. Adjust Your Internal Clock.
Several days (at least four) before departure, gradually shift your sleeping and eating times to coincide with those at your destination. Once you arrive, adopt the local time for your daily routine.

2. Opt for Overnight Flights.
You’ll have dinner at a normal time and be much more likely to sleep than on an afternoon flight. Depending on the length of the flight and the number of time zones you cross, you’ll arrive at your destination in the morning or afternoon. This is the best way to replicate your normal schedule, and it’ll be easier for you to reset your clock.

3. Curtail Coffee.
For 12 hours before, as well as during, your flight, avoid overeating and caffeine. Although caffeine can help keep you awake longer, it makes you wake up more often once you do fall asleep and so reduces total sleep time.

4. Stay Hydrated.
Drink at least 8 ounces of water for every hour you’re in the air—even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you wear contact lenses, clean them thoroughly before your flight, use eye drops in the air, and consider removing your lenses if you nap. In your carry-on pack a bottle of moisturizing lotion, lip balm, and a hydrating spray with essential oils (not just water) to spritz your face with occasionally. Just be sure all toiletries are TSA compliant.

5. Avoid or Limit Alcohol Inflight.
Cabin air dehydrates passengers, and altitude changes can quicken the effects of alcohol (the rule of thumb is one drink in the air is the same as two or three on the ground). A cocktail may relax you, but it’s also apt to dry you out, and even worsen symptoms of jet lag.

6. Try to Sleep on the Plane.
This is especially important when you’re travelling overnight or flying west to east. Travel is extremely tiring, and the more rest your body gets en route the more prepared you’ll be to deal with the stresses of jet lag. If you’re taking a very long flight— the United States to Asia, for example—consider saving up enough dollars or frequent-flier miles to fly business or first class, as it’s a lot easier to sleep when your seat reclines all the way back. If you can’t avoid coach, opt for a window seat and bring enough padding (pillows or something that can act as such) to prop yourself up against the wall.

7. Use Sleeping Pills Wisely.
A pill with a short cycle may be helpful on overnight flights. Make sure, however, that you time the dosage correctly or you may be very groggy when you land. Also, an aeroplane is not the place to try out a pill for the first time, so only take medications you are already familiar with.

8. See if Melatonin is for You.
Consider taking the nonprescription drug melatonin. Research suggests that the body uses this hormone to set its time clock. Because melatonin seems to control when we go to sleep and when we wake up, a number of scientists advocate supplements to alleviate jet lag. Some (but not all) studies suggest that taking 3 milligrams of fast-release melatonin prior to bedtime for several days after arrival in a new time zone can ease the transition.

9. Get Outside.
After arrival, spend a lot of time out in the sunlight, which will help your body reset its natural time clock to coincide with your new surroundings.

10. Don’t Drift Off Too Early.
Unless you arrive at your destination at night, and reasonably close to a normal bedtime, don’t go to sleep as soon as you reach your hotel. Unless you’re used to taking regular short naps at home, you’re better off staying up until bedtime: If you’re really exhausted from travel, a 20-minute nap could easily become a three-hour nap, which will disrupt your sleep schedule even more—you might find yourself wide awake at 4 AM.

old photo of airline stewardess

Remember, Backgrounds can be used to help fill the frame of your photo.  You can also use backgrounds to your advantage by making them part of the story you are trying to tell in your photograph. 

You can’t usually leave out the background completely, but you can control it to make a strong composition. 

Notice in each of the following images below how the backgrounds have been used effectively and notice how they compliment the main subject.   Achieve a brilliant result simply by using an aperture such as F2.8, F3.5, F5.6.  Give this a try to produce stunning results for your next photograph.

Please download the free PDF for additional examples of effective uses of backgrounds.

Photographs Showing an Effective Use of Backgrounds

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London’s Chinatown is great fun to explore with your camera especially if you enjoy street photography.  The atmosphere is always festive and reminiscent of Hong Kong’s Night Market (without the street vendors and stalls).  Is Chinatown one of the best places to photograph London?  Yes, for the pure enjoyment of it all.

Once home to Huguenot and Maltese immigrants, the area of Chinatown as we know it today started to form in the 1950s when a handful of Chinese restaurants opened. With other businesses and services moving in, by the 1960s and 1970s the neighbourhood had become a hub for Chinese culture.
The original London Chinatown was actually in Limehouse, in London’s East End. Chinese employees of the East India Company settled at the docks in the late 19th century and helped to create a Chinese community. However, a decline in shipping and large-scale destruction of the area during the Second World War saw this quarter dwindle by the mid-20th century.

Geographically, Chinatown is bound by Shaftesbury Avenue to the north, Rupert Street to the west, Charing Cross Road to the east and Leicester Square to the south. The main focal point is Gerrard Street, which runs through its centre. Chinatown is part of London’s West End.

Where is Chinatown in London?  How do I get to Chinatown?
London Chinatown GPS Coordinates ::  51.5118° N, 0.1311° W