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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.

 

 

During my first visit to the city, I was caught totally off guard.  A protest had shut down the highway between the airport and the capital city.  The driver carefully navigated the car down a slippery slope to go around the protestors only to met with another large group of protestors right near the hotel.

I was a bit shocked and uncomfortable at first, but once I ventured out on foot I realised there was no harm in my way.

Buenos Aires offers photographers splendid scenes to visit and  photograph.  There is a European feel to some of the architecture complete with a café culture.  You’ll find tango in the streets and in theatres.  Colorful buildings dot grand avenues while modern architecture seems confined along the harbour.  And if you want to visit the departed, Recoleta Cemetery is not to be missed.

One word of caution for any visitor – Be Aware.  Be mindful of the people around you and keep your valuables in a safe place.  My best suggestion is don’t wear flashy jewelry, don’t carry a large bag and be really careful with your expensive iPhone or camera.  Pickpockets and thievery are  unfortunately common in Buenos Aires.

The travel video in this blog post highlights some of the best Buenos Aires has to offer.  Each image was captured with my iPhone as sometimes the mobile device is easier to use than a DSLR.

Travel: it opens up new possibility, refreshes our perspective, and enriches a connection with the world around us. And whether you’re hopping on a plane for a worldwide journey, or exploring your own backyard with a newfound appreciation — you’ll want to take note of these travel photo tips.   The only gear that’s needed?   That trusty iPhone camera of yours.

:: TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP ONE

Focus On Color

Colour is everywhere and if you are drawn to colourful scenes you then are well ahead of me in this lesson.  You can be very creative and add a huge splash of interest to your photos by utilising colour.  

Bright primary colours tend to attract the eye especially when they are contrasted with a complementary hue.   Take advantage of colour when you can.  And remember, when composing a photo try to incorporate more than one element of the composition.  The possibilities are endless.  Your creativity and imagination should run wild.  Good photo composition is not difficult.  It is simply using your own eye to make stunning photographs.

:: TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP TWO

Look For Lines

A poorly composed photograph can leave your viewers unsure where to look.  Their attention might drift aimlessly around the scene in a photo without ever finding a clear focal point.  The viewer doesn’t know where to look.

How can you fix this?  You can use lines to control the way people’s eyes move around a picture Yes, lines.

Lines are going to be present in your work no matter what you do, so it’s all about taking control of them so that they serve the purpose of leading a viewer into your photograph.

The next time you are out with your camera, take a look around you first.  Are there any lines or paths that your eye naturally follows to lead you to the main subject?  If so, you should consider backing up from your subject to include them.  A line can be anything your eye will follow.  

Leading lines can be roads, lines of cropped grass, anything repetitive, buildings going up, a row of flowers, a wall,  – anything that guides the eye to the focus of your photos.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP THREE

Make A List

Just as you might make a list of places you want to see and visit while you’re travelling, make a list of the sights you want to photograph.

I have a comprehensive list of  places to photograph in London.  The list consists of all the interesting London places to photograph for an upcoming book.  I go to a particular place on the list, capture images, review the images and return to the same place, if my images aren’t satisfactory.

As you travel you don’t have the luxury of time like I have in London.  Be sure to spend enough time in a place so you capture the best possible images.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP FOUR

Make weather Your Friend

When you look out your window and see stormy weather of any kind, you might be disappointed.  You might think today is not the day to go out and about with your camera.

On the contrary, stormy weather like rain, fog and snow enables you to capture images of iconic places that haven’t been captured before.  No two storms are alike.  A moody photograph of the Eiffel Tower or the Chrysler Building might be the coolest photos ever taken.

Don’t let bad weather deter you from taking your incredible travel photos.  Instead, let crappy weather lead you onto the streets with a new set of photographic eyes.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP FIVE

LET MOTION AND BLUR BE YOUR FRIENDS

Motion and motion blur can add vitality to your travel photos.  If you’re capturing a photograph of a street scene and a bus or car passes by but they are blurry, that’s cool.

Light streams are fantastic composition elements to include in your travel photos.  In fact, it takes a bit of effort to master light trails from moving cars.  For me, London and motion go hand in hand as the city is so full of energy.

You might also find people walking down the street create a blur.  If your image is crystal clear except for the movement of people, you have a super travel photo.  It’s a keeper.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP SIX 

PAY ATTENTION TO PERSPECTIVE

Most people take their photographs standing upright.  Most people also put their subject directly in the middle of the photo frame.  Avoid both common photo composition mistakes.

Place your subject to the left or right of center and your travel photo will improve drastically.  Also think about getting down on the ground, finding higher ground, turning sideways, jumping in the air and anything else you can do to capture your image from a different perspective.  Unique angles matter.  When you’re trying to capture a photo of a familiar scene that’s been photographed a million times, unique angles matter even more.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP SEVEN

KNOW WHEN TO GO

How many times have you been anxious to photograph a particular scene only to find  hundreds of other people at the very same place?  This has happened to me countless times.

Do a little research to know the busiest times of your destination.  Once you know when crowds are less likely, that’s your time slot.  Go to your site with your camera when fewer people are around and you’ll avoid needless frustration.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP EIGHT

DON’T BE AFRAID OF SHADOWS

Shadows can also be used for a simple but dramatic effect.  Shadows tend to give a feeling of anticipation and often a cinematic effect, which is a good thing.  Don’t shy away from shadows.  Experiment and learn to use them to your advantage for a strong photo composition.

Isn’t it amazing how far mobile phone cameras have come in such a relatively short time period?   If you’re a Millennial or a Generation Z-er, your first mobile phone probably was 8MP or greater.   The technological advancements made over the last years is no big deal to you.

I’m Generation X and my first mobile phone didn’t have a camera at all and I thought texting was out of this world. Seriously, I could type a message and send it through the airwaves to my friends and they would reply?   That was wild.   And then a year or so later I could also send a pixelated photo via an MMS?   That was state of the art and almost Jetson’s like.

taking travel photos with mobile phone

I remember working at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens and sending photos of the opening ceremonies as they happened back to dusty West Texas.   That was way cool and the person to whom I sent the images couldn’t believe they were seeing the ceremonies before the Games were televised in the United States.

Mobile phone cameras changed so much of every day life for everyone.   In fact, the digital age slammed professional photographers and not in a good way unless you’ve known how to quickly adopt new technology and adapt.  The internet and mobile technology put a lot of photographers out of business.  No joke.

I’m a traditional travel and art photographer.   This is my life and my professional life.  One of the requirements of being a professional photographer is to carry around a lot of photography gear.   Getting the right shot with the right camera and lens is important when shooting for books or magazines.  It is possible for me to carry around 40 lbs or more in my backpack depending on the camera with which I choose to travel.  

Like most people, keeping life simple is ideal.  I am one to simplify travel so life is easier and I don’t fumble changing lenses or even deciding which lens to use.   Before I leave my studio I know which camera and lenses I’ll use so I’ll only carry that and I leave everything that’s unnecessary behind.   Why needlessly overload, right?

taking photo with dslr camera

I also know where I’m going and I know what I’m interested in with regard to the images I want to capture.   I research ahead of time so I’m not completely blind or oblivious to what I’ll find when I reach a destination.  What are the best architectural features?  What is the lighting like for the landscape I want to capture?  When will I run into the least amount of people?    All these things I know before heading out the door.

There are always unexpected moments I’ll find no matter where I go and no matter the amount of research I’ve done ahead of time.  And sometimes, the unexpected moments and finds are the best photo opportunities.   What I’ve discovered is sometimes it takes too long to lift the camera, turn it on, adjust the proper settings, focus and click the shutter.   A moment that happens in an instant is long gone by the time I have my camera ready to shoot.   Candid and spontaneous moments missed.

It is my job to think and act in an instant as a travel photographer.   And I do just that.  Today’s mobile phone cameras, especially Apple iPhones, make the oftentimes impossible possible.

When the cute kid looks quizzically at the horse guard and then looks at his mom and smiles a huge smile, I can capture both in an instant with the iPhone.   And when a tractor putters by on a Himalayan mountain road loaded with Bhutanese, I can capture their smiling faces and friendly waves with video without even thinking about it.

As technology improves and mobile phone cameras become something only a DSLR could do in the past, possibilites become endless.   Editing apps right on the mobile phone increase quality results even more.   I’m still amazed quite frankly and no doubt I’ll continue to be amazed for years to come.

Capturing Photo with DSLR Camera

Do I ever ditch the DSLR just for the iPhone?   No. I’m far too conventional and since my images are often published in magazines or books, I’ve no choice but to use a full frame camera or film.   I still love film and am a believer that film’s quality can not be matched.   The portability and convenience of the iPhone can’t be matched either.

And so what you see in the video presentation in recent blog posts , were all captured with a variety of iPhones.   The earlier images were captured with the iPhone 4.   I then graduated to an iPhone 5, 5s, 6, 6s, skipped the 7, went briefly to an 8 and now use the iPhone X.   The latest models are simply incredible when it comes to photo quality.  What is interesting is with each model, I thought it was the best only to be blown away by the improved mobile phone camera capabilities.

The purpose of travel photography is to document your journey and experiences.  These images serve as memories that will last a lifetime, and it’s likely that you’ll want to share them with family, friends and your social media followers.  Can you submit mobile phone images to stock photography companies?  The answer is yes.  The quality of images from mobile phones as improved so dramatically, stock companies openly welcome them as stock images.

While the image resolution and quality might be higher on a DSLR or other high-end camera, the iPhone wins hands-down on portability and convenience.  What’s better than slipping something into your pocket and is so easily accessible?  

taking photo with mobile phone

Have you felt the London Vibe?

A few years ago I was on my way to a member’s club to meet friends when I stopped in a small corner store for a couple things.  I guess I had an odd look on my face as the store clerk asked “Are you ok mate”?  “Yeah,” I replied, “I’m just tired”.  He looked at me with a smile and said “Everyone in London is tired”.  I think the store clerk may be right.

London is a city full of energy.  Everything moves fast and furious.  You wake up, get ready for the day, step outside onto the pavement and before you know it, it is time for bed again.  Seriously, this is how it feels for me most days.  The days race by in what seems to be an instant.  March through September fly by and the next thing you know is the Christmas lights are switched on in Oxford Street.  It’s incredible.

Being in London is living.  I always say – I go to London to live life and I go to Texas to sit down and take a breath.  There is a rush of energy in London that can only be matched by New York City.  You can feel this lightning speed energy simply by walking down any London street.  You can’t look anywhere and not see something moving.  Everything is in motion it seems.

People are always in a hurry, waiters in restaurants move fast, cars zip by, and tall double decker buses zoom past one after another after another.  Lights constantly flash in your eyes. Motion doesn’t stop underground as “The Tube” stops at a platform every few minutes.  Nothing stops.  Commuters rush through underground tunnels like ants bringing home food to their queen.   It’s crazy.

Have you ever had a quiet moment on the streets in Central London?  I haven’t found one and I’ve been walking London’s streets for more years than I can count.  I remember being on Oxford Street on a Saturday once and literally having a panic attack.  I never have panic attacks.  That’s not me.  On that particular day, however, all I wanted to do was get away from the crowd and the noise.  Now I avoid Oxford Street at all costs and I’ve even found an alternative route when I head that direction.  Since that day I learned quiet is inside me and that’s a bit of comfort when I find myself in a tense London situation.

The fast paced energy of London is actually a good thing.  The vitality of the city makes you feel alive.  You might even find there to be an extra step in your skip so to speak.  It’s a good feeling, if not a bit exhausting.  I always think better and my creativity is sparked simply by being aware of my surroundings as I walk.

London is a city where you can be anonymous and even alone amongst a million people.  As long as you like yourself and can keep yourself company, being anonymous and alone is great.  I love it myself.  If you need constant attention and validation, you might find London a wee bit hard, cold and callous.  Can you imagine walking through a city so crowded as London and never speak to someone and no one speaks to you?  It’s interesting.

I like the anonymous bit to be honest.  It’s especially nice when I’m out with my camera.   I can get lost in London without being literally lost.  I zone everything and everyone out.  It’s me, my camera and London.  Sometimes I feel as if I have the entire fabulous city all to myself.   If anyone speaks to me, it’s tourists and not Londoners.  Tourists want to know what I’m doing or how to capture a great photo.  Londoners might glance over to see what I’m doing but mostly they could care less.  It’s great.  It’s brilliant and part of the London vibe.

London is not for the faint of heart.  If it’s rainbows and butterflies you’re looking for, go to the Rainforest Café.  When you want the vim and vigor of a city full of liveliness, step out onto to the streets of London.  

London will challenge you.  Challenge her back.  Walk with your head held high, look people in the eye, offer the odd smile and don’t let anyone tell you London is not for you.  London is for everyone of all walks of life.  She is especially great when you contribute to her energy.

At the end of the day when you go home and prop your tired feet up, or you return to your hotel exhausted on your bed, remember the day you had.  Rewind everything that happened during the day.  Remember all the sights, sounds and motion that engulfed your senses.  And when you’ve done all that, remember what a brilliant city London is.

No matter how, when, why or where you travel around the world you are sure to receive one of the best educations of your life.  The lessons you learn may be small and unnoticeable or they may be huge and life changing.

A foreign culture may make you realise something you didn’t know about yourself and sometimes even move you to tears.  My visit to Bhutan took me to a state of peacefulness I’ve not found anywhere in the Western world.  I can’t begin to describe the effect the tiny kingdom had on me except to say when I viewed photos and video from the journey, tears rolled down my cheeks.  It’s a mystery to me why the tears came even today.  All I know is Bhutan touched me beyond measure.

The taste of new food, aromas, colors and even travel sounds can leave an impression on you well after you leave a destination.  The sensory elements of travel may inspire you to add them to your own creative adventures in cooking or music or handicrafts.

You may be in awe of Big Ben or Mont Saint Michel glowing against the night sky.  Istanbul’s Blue Mosque or the Old Medina in Marrakech send your senses into sensory overload.  A sunset on a beach in the Caribbean or Bali may change the way you look at the world.

But most of all, it is the people you meet along the way who will touch you in ways you never though imaginable.  Maybe you’ll understand that we are all just trying to make it in this world.  We just happen to speak differently or pray a little different.  Inherently, we’re all good people.

And so when I wanted to show the many places I’ve travelled throughout the world, I decided to do it in one go in one epic video presentation which I’ve titled “Travel Around The World With The Gentleman Wayfarer.”  There are approximately 3000 photos in the fast-paced presentation that span all the way around the world.  The places and people I’ve included have impacted my life in one way or another.  This is my tribute to every one and every place that has made a difference in my life.

Travel with an iPhone or any mobile phone is very common today.  If you are keen to improve your travel photography skills, a mobile device is a great way to do it.  Phones are easily accessible, they fit in your pocket and you really don’t have to think too much.

Consider these iPhone Travel Photography Tips during your next journey.

1) Strengthen your travel photos with different focal lengths.

The iPhone is equipped with two lenses, a wide-angle 28mm and a portrait lens, 56mm. Different focal lengths tell different stories. A wider angle generally gives a better sense of place, while a telephoto brings the viewer into the details of the subject.  Consider this while you’re shooting and experiment with both.  And remember – one key element to great photo composition is filling your frame.

2) Keep Using Your iPhone in Low Light

Some of my favorite images have been shot well after the sun has gone down.  I love the challenge of low light photography.  In the past, I would have put my iPhone away thinking the images wouldn’t be usable, but now with a new sensor and faster aperture (f/1.8), the iPhone autofocuses and captures substantially better in low light.

3) Be In The Moment But Also Think Ahead

Travel photography is about capturing the unknowns and unexpected.  Always be looking forward, and consider using the iPhone’s burst mode so you don’t miss a moment as it happens.   To use burst mode, press and hold the shutter button until rapid fire begins.

4) Buy An Unlocked iPhone So You Can Switch to Local SIM Cards.

Communication is super important while traveling.  If you’re roaming internationally, the cost can be astronomical.  Buy a local SIM card as it allows you to make new plans, call someone, google something, and more, while you’re on the go. In photography, this means your GPS data will be recorded with your photo.  The iPhone’s memories feature can organize your images together by location and create simple and fun video vignettes.

Later, you can also look on a map in Photos and see exactly where you captured different photographs.  I use this feature as I don’t always remember the names of the places where I’ve taken photos.

5) Bring a Small Tripod

A small, compact tripod can be helpful and is a great way to capture time-lapses, low-light images, and more. While the iPhones now all have a stabilizer built in, the extra support from a tripod can be especially helpful with the iPhone optical zoom.

Keep in mind that shooting with a longer focal length, like the iPhone optical zoom, amplifies camera shake.  You’ll find it will naturally be more difficult to get a sharp clear shot while shooting with 2x, especially in low-light environments or unstable foundations, like a moving vehicle.  To compensate, use a mini-tripod or experiment with burst mode. Sometimes I’ll shoot a 20-shot burst just to ensure that I have the sharpest shot possible.

6) Upload Your Photos to the Cloud Daily

Thanks to a the iPhone’s water-resistant feature, you won’t be losing our pictures during accidental swims, but it could be left at a hotel, or worse, picked from your pocket, which happened to me in Ecuador. At the end of the day, the iPhone can be replaced, but your pictures can’t. Don’t get two weeks into a trip only to lose them all in a moment.

If you don’t have your laptop because you’re traveling light, consider a SanDisk iXpand.  It’s essentially a USB flash drive with a Lightning connector, so you can quickly and easily off-load your images each day.  I love mind and take it everywhere I travel.

Be sure to keep your backup and your iPhone in separate bags for extra safety.

7) Play it safe.

Don’t put your iPhone—or any valuable—in the tray when going through security. Instead, put it in a pocket of your bag before sending it through the x-ray.  This way it’s protected from being accidentally—or intentionally—carried off before you get through the metal detector.

8) Play To The Strengths of the iPhone

One of the greatest strengths of the iPhone as a camera is its agility.  You can focus on getting to the best shoot spots instead of worrying about lugging gear. Don’t weigh it down with a bunch of unnecessary DSLR lens adapters.

Try leaving your DSLR at home and travel super light.  The iPhone  doesn’t replace your DSLR, but it’s plenty powerful and a really fun way to experience and capture the environment around you.  You’ll love leaving the extra chargers, batteries, lenses, and big tripod at home for a change.

night photo palace of westminster

Capturing images of the House of Parliament, or Palace of Westminster, is one of my favourite places to photograph London.  I prefer to visit the area at night because the buildings illuminate beautifully highlighting the gold tones in the stone used throughout the structure.  Like so  many other brilliant London photo locations, the area around Palace of Westminster is a treasure trove with Big Ben, Westminster Bridge, the Thames River, Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square nearby.

If I had to choose the ultimate place to take the best London photos, Palace of Westminster and the area surrounding the grand building would near the top of the list.  As a proficient night photographer, you’ll find me out and about after the sun goes down.  The reflections of the Victorian architectural masterpiece reflects beautifully in the river especially with the warm lighting tones.  The truth is, however, the entire area is worthy of a visit with your camera day or night.

In 1834, fired ravaged both Houses of Parliament along with most other building on the site.  Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower and a few others were spared from destruction thanks to firefighters and changing winds.  

The new Palace of Westminster, what we see today, was custom-built by the Victorian architect Charles Barry.  Mr Barry was careful to combine the old with the new, so that the surviving buildings – Westminster Hall, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St. Stephen’s, and the Undercroft Chapel – formed a structure that appeared seamless.

The Palace of Westminster towers over the River Thames and is quite imposing as a symbol of power, tho’ one might question the power bit given today’s political folly.  Back in Victorian times when the Palace was rebuilt, the architecture and massive structure captivated the imaginations of the public.  It also had a significant influence on the subsequent design of various public buildings such as town halls, law courts and schools throughout the United Kingdom, and internationally.

Where is Palace of Westminster?  How Do I Get To Palace of Westminster?
Palace of Westminster GPS Coordinates :: 51.4995° N, 0.1248° W

Map Showing Location of Palace of Westminster ::

Map Showing Location of Palace of Westminster

London Colisseum illuminated at night and Red Phone Boxes

When the London Coliseum originally opened in 1904, it was London’s largest and most luxurious variety theatres.  It was referred to as the people’s palace of entertainment at the time.  Even today, with 2,59 seats, the Coliseum is the largest theatre in London.

The theatre has been used for variety shows, stage plays, musical comedies, and screening films throughout the years.  After the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company moved into the building in 1968, the name changed to the English National Opera.  Today the London Coliseum is used primarily for opera as well as being the London home of the English National Ballet.

I’ve attended numerous English National Opera productions including “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Sweeney Todd.”  What rich entertainment you can enjoy at any number of productions throughout each season, but be sure to have your camera in hand when you walk out the doors into St Martin’s Lane.

St Martin’s Lane has always been one of my favourite roads in Central London.  There is no rhyme nor reason to my fondness of this street except it seems more civilised than others and the numerous theatres dotted along St Martin’s.  Of course you’ll find the London Coliseum which is a challenge to photograph.  My best advice is to jockey yourself around St Martin’s Lane as well as the area in front of the National Portrait Gallery along Charing Cross Road.  I especially love the red phone boxes and the tall leafy trees that add interesting elements into any London photograph.

Is the London Coliseum one of the best places to photograph London?  No, not exactly.  The coliseum building itself is indeed quite stunning especially with the spinning finial like part of the structure.  The interesting part of the area is challenging yourself to capture a great photograph in and around the Coliseum area.  To top it off, Trafalgar Square is mere steps away where a myriad of fabulous London photographs await you.

Where is the ENO London Coliseum?  How Do I Get To the London Coliseum?
ENO London Coliseum GPS Coordinates :: 51.5098° N, 0.1268° W

Map Showing the Location of the English National Opera London Coliseum ::

Map Showing Location of London Colisseum

photo showing entrance to city of london

Strategically placed around the perimeters of the “Square Mile,” are statues of dragons holding the shield of St George signifying your entrance into the City of London.  No, no!  Not sprawling London as a whole, but the 1.12 square miles that make up the historical centre of trading and business.

History can take you back to when London was known as Londinium when the Romans established a settlement around 43AD.  It is safe to say the Romans were the first presence of life in London as archaeologists have found no evidence of pre-Roman  signs of significant life beforehand.  

You can find segments of the London Wall, which was built by the Romans, near Tower Hill Underground Station.  The Romans built the wall sometime around 190AD and 225AD.  The boundaries of the Roman city were quite close to this of the City of London today except the City extends further west than Lononinium’s Ludgate.  Remember also the River Thames was wider back then than it is today so the shoreline of Londoninium was slightly north of the City of London’s present shoreline.

Of course the City of London grew by leaps and bounds over hundreds and hundreds of years.  The beauty of the square mile is it continues to transform London’s skyline with modern architecture at a seemingly rapid pace.

This is a lot to say about statues of a dragon tho’ there is rich history behind them.  Are the statues themselves the best places to photograph London?  No, not really save for the one located in The Strand.  

The City of London itself is worth a day, and even a weekend, to explore with your camera.  Only about 9,400 people live within the City today tho’ about 300,000 commute to the area each day for work.  After work hours and weekends are ideal for keen creative photographers as you will have the City of London virtually to yourself.