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The Gentleman Wayfarer

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How does a gentleman travel?   The answer is simple.  A gentleman travels the easiest and most convenient way possible.  In the literal sense, a gentleman travels by commercial plane, private plane, his own plane, a friend’s plane, big boat, small boat, privately chartered boat, SUV, chauffeured driven car, Business Class and First Class, over mountains, over oceans, up and down escalators, on foot, subway, train, metro, cable car, and even a camel or a mule.

In a deeper sense, a gentleman travels to discover the world.  The sights, sounds, aromas, tastes and touch of an unfamiliar place expand the knowledge of anyone who travels.  You can travel across your neighbourhood, your city and even around the world.  No matter where you go, you’re sure to receive an education you’ll never find in a classroom or a book.  You can learn a wee bit from television tho’ television really is a black hole that steals your time away from more meaningful things in life.

The cultures and the people we meet along the way teach us that we are all just trying to make it.  We simply try to make it in different ways.  But everyone you meet along the way will teach you something you didn’t know before.  If you’re lucky, you will learn a lot about yourself as well.

Travelling around the world with my camera I am afforded stunningly beautiful opportunities to capture what is before me.  I am often awestruck at man-made structures.  I’m often in complete wonderment being amongst Mother Nature’s magical creations.  But, what moves me most are the genuine souls of varying cultures who unconditionally help to uncover special parts inside of me.

Whether a divining wind sways me, or a guiding hand shifts me, I always find myself in the path of strangers who sequentially become my brothers or sisters.  Perhaps this is sheer luck.  Perhaps I have a sign on my back that says – “Hey!  I’m a nice guy.  Come talk to me.”  Perhaps not knowing why is of no great importance and I accept my good fortune without question.  

There is a peacefulness with this which I hold very close to my heart.  Quite honestly, these are moments never obtained with the click of the shutter.  These moments of building new bonds stay etched in my mind.

Travel is one of the most rewarding and powerful gifts we can give ourselves.  You can obviously give the gift of travel to others.   I’ve said this many times throughout this blog tho’ I’ll say it again.  Travel is one of the best educations you can ever receive.  There is no substitute for travel.

So, how does a gentleman travel?  A gentleman travels with an open heart and an open mind.    He travels with eyes wide open.  He rarely travels with a set agenda.  A gentleman travels with few expectations.  And, he takes each day as it comes.

 

 

Discovering London should be done in layers and in stages.  In order to truly experience one of the greatest cities in the world, you have to look at London at every angle.  You must experience one layer before you move onto the next.  It is impossible to visit once and see everything there is to see in London.   There is absolutely no way to experience everything London has to offer in one go and perhaps even ten.

There is a great quote that sums up London.  “I’ve been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day.”  I could have written the quote as I myself have been exploring London for the last thirty years and yet there is still so much I haven’t seen or experienced.  Every time I set out on foot I find something new and interesting about London that I hadn’t known before.

London is layered.

The first time you visit London you will want to see all of the must-see sights.  Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus.  All of these sights will be on your list.  You’ll probably also want to ride on the iconic double decker bus, ride on the London Underground and have your photo taken in a red phone box.  This is the surface of London.  The superficial, if you will.

Museums aren’t superficial at all.  The National Gallery, Tate Modern and British Museum will also be on your list of things to do in London.  London’s museums are world class and they are free.  You’ll feel as if you’ve been cultured at the highest level having been mere steps away from the masters of art.  You’ll feel as if London has fed your curiosity with a silver spoon.  You’re right to feel this as the city has so much to feed you.

The next time you visit London you’ll stay at the same level.  You’ll feel as if you know London inside and out.  You’ll return to familiar sights, you’ll hop on the London Underground feeling like a Londoner, and you’ll pop into the café or restaurant you remember so fondly from your last visit.  You might even find your way from Point A to Point B without getting lost.  But, you’ll still get lost when a street curves in a direction differently than what you expect.

If you decide to go for a walk instead of taking the Underground, you’ll find a new route and the next layer of London. You’ll find a new place you hadn’t noticed before.  You’ll find a charming street or mews that puts a huge smile on your face.  You’ll pop into art galleries instead of only exploring the large museums.  And, you might even attend more than one theatre production.

As you discover more about London, your curiosity will get the best of you.  You’ll want to know more but there isn’t time.  You make a mental list of what you want to see and do during your next visit to London.

It’s during your third visit to London that you might want to cross each and every bridge in Central London.  Instead of only riding the London Underground, you’ll walk more and you’ll get lost more.  The streets still curve in unexpected directions but when you get lost, you won’t panic.  You will keep walking further and explore streets just to see where they go.  You’ll find new neighbourhoods and sit in parks you never knew were there.  

Instead of only visiting Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral, you’ll find incredible churches like St Bartholomew The Great near Smithfields.  You’ll stumble upon St. Dunstan-In-The-East and be amazed how London’s noise is silenced when you walk into the public gardens.   Curiosity might get the best of you as you try to discover other secret places in London – and there are plenty to discover.  Pickering Place off St James’s Street with it’s brilliant sun dial, or Holborn Viaduct are just two secrets waiting for you.

You’ll be charmed even more by London.  You’ll be so charmed that by your next visit you’ll relax a bit.  You will understand that visiting London is not a race but instead a layered treasure waiting to be discovered.  You’ll sit on a park bench to eat your lunch.  When the sun comes out, you’ll lay on the grass in Hyde Park, Green Park or St. James’s Park just like Londoner do.  You’ll want a cuppa instead of a cup of coffee.  And, you’ll think to venture beyond the ground floor at Fortnum & Mason.  When you’re finished there, you’ll pop into Hatchard’s book shop next door and know you’re walking into history when you do.

Each layer of London will reveal a different part of the heart and soul of the city.  With each layer you peel back, you will want to discover more.  Many elements make London tick and move.  The vibe and energy of the city are immeasurable and you’ll feel both with every step you take.  It’s the addictive vibe and energy that will keep you wanting to return for more.

If you’re a keen photographer, you’ll want to capture the best possible photos of London.  I dedicate a section of the blog to the Best Places to Photograph London.  Have a look.  I make finding the best London photo spots easy to find.  Consider the following photo composition tips for your next photographic journey in London.

Rule One 

Simplify the scene.

When you look at a scene with your naked eye, your brain quickly picks out subjects of interest. But the camera doesn’t discriminate – it captures everything in front of it, which can lead to a cluttered, messy picture with no clear focal point.

Remember, don’t let your camera rule you.  You rule the camera!

What you need to do is choose your subject, then select a focal length or camera viewpoint that makes it the centre of attention in the frame. You can’t always keep other objects out of the picture, so try to keep them in the background or make them part of the story.

Silhouettestextures and patterns are all devices that work quite well in simple compositions.

The simpler the shot the bigger the impact

Move in close to cut out other parts of the scene
Silhouettes and shapes make strong subjects
The balloons radial lines draw you into the frame

Rule Two

Fill The Frame

When you’re shooting a large-scale scene it can be hard to know how big your subject should be in the frame, and how much you should zoom in. 

In fact, leaving too much empty space in a scene is the most widespread compositional mistake. It makes your subject smaller than it needs to be and can also leave viewers confused about what they’re supposed to be looking at.

To avoid these problems you should zoom in to fill the frame, or get closer to the subject in question. The first approach flattens the perspective of the shot and makes it easier to control or exclude what’s shown in the background, but physically moving closer can give you a more interesting take on things.

Rule Three

Horizontal vs Vertical

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and take every picture with the camera held horizontally.  In fact, I was taught to shoot this way and only this way.  It took time for me think of turning my camera vertically.

Try turning it to get a vertical shot instead, adjusting your position or the zoom setting as you experiment with the new style.

Rule Four

Avoid The Middle

When you are a newbie, or just starting out, it’s tempting to put whatever you’re shooting right in the centre of the frame. However, this produces rather static, boring pictures. One of the ways to counteract this is to use the Rule of Thirds, where you split the image up into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and try to place your subject on one of these imaginary lines or intersections. 

Let me say, however, this is an overrated approach.

Instead, move your subject away from the centre and get a feel for how it can be balanced with everything else in the scene, including any areas of contrasting colour or light. 

There are no hard and fast rules about achieving this kind of visual balance, but you’ll quickly learn to rely on your instincts – trust that you’ll know when something just looks right.

Rule Five

Leading Lines

A poorly composed photograph will leave your viewers unsure about where to look, and their attention might drift aimlessly around the scene without finding a clear focal point. 

However, you can use lines to control the way people’s eyes move around the picture.

Converging lines give a strong sense of perspective and three-dimensional depth, drawing you into an image. Curved lines can lead you on a journey around the frame, leading you towards the main subject.

Lines exist everywhere, in the form of walls, fences, roads, buildings and telephone wires. They can also be implied, perhaps by the direction in which an off-centre subject is looking.

Rule Six

Dutch Tilt

Horizontal lines lend a static, calm feel to a picture, while vertical ones often suggest permanence and stability. To introduce a feeling of drama, movement or uncertainty, try the dutch tilt technique.

You can need nothing more than a shift in position or focal length to get them –wider angles of view tend to introduce diagonal lines because of the increased perspective; with wide-angle lenses, you’re more likely to tilt the camera up or down to get more of a scene in.

You can also introduce diagonal lines artificially, using the ‘Dutch Tilt’ technique. You simply tilt the camera as you take the shot. This can be very effective, though it doesn’t suit every shot and is best used sparingly

The Dutch Tilt can be used for dramatic effect and helps portray unease, disorientation, frantic or desperate action, intoxication, madness, etc….  

Rule Seven

Space to Move

Even though photographs themselves are static, they can still convey a strong sense of movement. When we look at pictures, we see what’s happening and tend to look ahead – this creates a feeling of imbalance or unease if your subject has nowhere to move except out of the frame.

You don’t just get this effect with moving subjects, either. For example, when you look at a portrait you tend to follow someone’s gaze, and they need an area to look into

For both types of shot, then, there should always be a little more space ahead of the subject than behind it.

Rule Eight

Backgrounds

Don’t just concentrate on your subject – look at what’s happening in the background, too. This ties in with simplifying the scene and filling the frame. You can’t usually exclude the background completely, of course, but you can control it.

You’ll often find that changing your position is enough to replace a cluttered background with one that complements your subject nicely. Or you can use a wide lens aperture and a longer focal length to throw the background out of focus.

It all depends on whether the background is part of the story you’re trying to tell with the photo. In the shot above, the background is something that needs to be suppressed.

Rule Nine

Be Creative With Colours

Bright primary colours really attract the eye, especially when they’re contrasted with a complementary hue. But there are other ways of creating colour contrasts – by including a bright splash of colour against a monochromatic background, for example. 

You don’t need strong colour contrasts to create striking pictures, though.

Scenes consisting almost entirely of a single hue can be very effective. And those with a limited palette of harmonious shades, such as softly lit landscapes, often make great pictures.

The key is to be really selective about how you isolate and frame your subjects to exclude unwanted colours.

Rule Ten

Breaking The Rules

Photo composition is basically a visual language – you can use it to make your pictures pass on a particular message.

Just as we sometimes use the written word to create a deliberately jarring effect, we can do the same with photos by breaking with standard composition rules.

When you understand the rules of composition and then break them on purpose things start to get interesting.

It’s often best to break one rule at a time, as John Powell does in the image above.

Just remember: for every rule we suggest, somewhere out there is a great picture that proves you can disregard it and still produce a fantastic image.

A visit to London will undoubtedly feed your mind and soul.   It is impossible to leave London and not be inspired, tired, or challenged.  London’s effect on you are great.  She seeps into every part of your being without you noticing.

A visit to London is like a love affair that never really ends.  The city is always on your mind.  You crave her and everything London offers long after you leave.  You miss the sounds of London, the rumble of the London Underground, and navigating the crowded streets.  Crossing over London Bridges remains in your memory.  Iconic places such as St Paul’s Cathedral or Trafalgar Square stay etched in your mind.  Maybe the views from Waterloo Bridge or the wide spans view of London from Primrose Hill are still in your mind when you close your eyes.

You’ll always remember London.  

My affair with London began more than thirty years ago.  The city has made a huge impact on me.  I often like to say – “Everything I’ve Learned About Life I Learned From London.”

My love of live theatre began in London when I saw “Daisy Pulls It Off” at the Globe Theatre, which is now the Gielguld Theatre.  I saw magic when the curtain went up and I was captivated until the finals bows and the curtain came down.  Even today I attend live theatre performances like most people see movies.   Theatre taught me a bit about being dramatic and I use the lessons I learned in my photography.  Funny that.  Right?  It also taught me how to string together words in a particular way to make a point.  

London is a mecca for art and museums.  If you have an interest in the world’s artifacts, head over to the British Museum.  If you love paintings from Monet, Manet, Seurat, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens and a myriad of other masters, go to the National Gallery.  If you love modern art, head over to the Tate Modern Museum.  And what’s more is you’ll find a plethora of independent art galleries throughout the city.  

Studying the masters of art is a fantastic way to improve your photography.  Painters are masters at presenting light which is what photography is all about.  But, also pay attention to the use of textures, leading lines and other composition elements.

Perhaps you love fashion or interior design.  Fine art at any museum could inspire you to redecorate your home or design your next outfit that no one else will have.

A walk past Fortnum and Mason’s window displays will bring a smile to your face, tho’ it’s entirely possible you’re creative energy explodes.  You could be inspired to create your next masterpiece.  Or maybe you’ll get a warm feeling and think of the person who is not with you but you love with all your heart.

The gardens and parks throughout the city offer a sanctuary from the loud noise and madness that is London.  One of my favourite places is St. Dunstan-in-the-East.  The moment I walk into the remnants of the old church all of London’s noises go away.  I feel peace and everything seems to be right in the world.  I’ve sat on the park bench for hours and sometimes with a lunch.  It’s a place where I can actually think without distraction.  Problems are sorted through and even my next project is pieced together while at St. Dunstan’s.  There is no other place of solitude like it anywhere in London.

Soho is a splendid place for understanding and inspiration.  This area of London is one I’ve spent countless hours with my camera.  I’ll typically wander through Soho at night and into the wee hours of the morning.  Great photographs are a dime a dozen in this area of London, but if you stop long enough, you might end up in a conversation with someone you would not normally speak to.

I met a man drunk as could be who wanted me to celebrate the birth of his grandchild with him.  I spoke with a young heroin addict who described what it was like to be homeless and sleeping on the streets.  A prostitute offered me her services.  Although I declined, we had a good jovial chat in Wardour Street and she told me where to capture the best photographs.  She also warned me to keep my camera safe.  

Not everyone in London are like the people I described.  The point in sharing these experiences is that London taught me to keep an open mind and listen.  And trust me, if you listen long enough, you’ll hear everything.  The key is avoid judging anyone or projecting your own life’s beliefs on someone else.

Don’t be surprised to see a woman walking down the street wearing only her bra and a pair of shorts.  You might even see a man jogging in his tiny speedo.  Whatever you see, take it all in and realise that you can be anyone and anything you want to be because London tells you that you can.  Many of my own inhibitions went away because of the sights I’ve seen on London’s streets.  Be who and what you are without worrying what others may think or say.

I especially love Jermyn Street between St James’s Street and Regent Street St James’s.  The street has been gentrified lately but it keeps the authentic gentlemanly traditions it is known for.  The statue of Beau Brummell reminds us that Jermyn Street catered to London’s gentlemen long before we arrived.  Feel civilised and have a shirt tailored for your next special occasion, have a shave or become a connoisseur of cigars and fine art.  Almost everything you need to know about being a gentleman can be found in charming Jermyn Street.

If you’re visiting from the United States, a walk through London should remind you how young your country is.  So many of London’s buildings date back a thousand years.  That’s four times the age of the USA.  It is sort of mind blowing when you think of London that way.  As you walk along London’s streets, know you are walking amongst history.  If you know a bit of London history, take yourself back.  Try to visualise what Piccadilly was like in the 1700’s.  What was Westminster Abbey like when it was on an island in the Thames River?  Or what were the views from London Bridge when it was the original London Bridge?

London has something for everyone no matter what your tastes or interests are.  Your challenge is to be aware.  Be aware of what the city has to offer.  Be aware of what is in front of you because you never know how London will move you to be the person you always wanted to be.  Open your mind and let London shape you.  London is a hard cold city on the outside.  The truth is, however, London will take good care of you.  She will teach you about life and help you understand that you are more.  London will teach you how to love other people, too.

 

 

When you get into a taxi in Macau, be sure to have your destination written on a card to show the driver.  Saying “take me to the Conrad Hotel” means nothing in Chinese.   Take my advice.  This is Macau.

I travelled to Macau purely out of curiosity.  I must say I was completely blown away.   In fact, I loved Macau even though I know nothing about gambling.

  The casino lights in Macau flash outside like you’d expect to see in Las Vegas tho’ Macau is not flashy.  

The queues of people waiting to play casino games is unbelievable.  People literally wait in lines for hours to play a slot machine.  Speaking of slot machines, they made no sense to me.  If I ever do gamble my money away, it’s on a slot machine.  I took one look and told myself no way.  I’d have lost everything with the first pull.

Needless to say I find Macau more than fascinating.  But, there is also a genuine side to Macau that is well worth exploring.  Only blocks away from the bright flashing casino lights you’ll find where the locals live and work.  Macau is entirely safe so don’t allow any sort of apprehension keep you away.

Some of the best photos I captured of Macau were amongst the real and genuine city.  I also felt more at ease.

For your trip to Macau, consider the following travel photography tips.

The good news is you don’t need to have a great camera to take great photos.  In fact, your iPhone is sometimes all you need.

Here are 6 simple tricks to help you take beautiful photos (smartphone or not)

1   Declutter:  don’t try and capture too many things in your photo.  Simple is best.

2   Close up:  kind of the same as above, but zoom in to crop out the excess clutter.

3   Focus:  tap the specific item in the frame that you want the image to focus on (see below for more focus and exposure tips). 

4   Take your time. You might get lucky just pointing and shooting, but if you’re taking a scenery photo, for example, take your time to move the camera slowly and studying what you are capturing in the photo.

5   Try different angles.  Sure you can stand right in front of the flower and click, but try tilting the camera above or below it and see what results you get.  Or put the subject to one side.  Avoid the middle.

6   Make eye contact.  Take the time for your subject, whether it be human or animal, to look at you. Do whatever it takes to get their eyes looking down the lens. 

5 iPhone camera tricks you might not know

1 Turn on your camera three ways:  unlock your phone and hit the icon, swipe up and hit the icon OR THIS TRICK: when your phone is locked, just swipe from right to left and the camera is open.  A great tip for averting the panic of needing to take a quick snap but not having the time to click through the other steps.

2 Use your headphones to take the photo.  Open the camera app and let’s say you want to take a discrete photo or you are taking a low light photo at night time, you can put your iPhone down on the table or on a tripod (so you don’t shake it) and line up your shot, then using your volume + or – buttons, with the iPhone headphones plugged in, you take the pic.

3 Burst mode feature. This is great for action shots.  Just hold your finger on the shutter button and it will rip off several in a few seconds and you can just delete the ones you don’t like that. Note: it bursts quickly!  I held my finger down about 3 seconds and it took 24 frames.  Whoa Junior!  Stop.  That’s what I was thinking.

4 Manual focus.   Yes you can manually focus in your iPhone. Just tap the part of the screen you want to be in full focus and voila. This is great for a food shot or a close up object when there is a busy background and you want that to be blurred out a little.  If you don’t do this the iPhone will choose what to focus on itself and you may end up with a fuzzy flower and a sharp leaf.

5 Increase or decrease the exposure.  You can play with exposure on your trusty iPhone and I do this all the time.  Just tilting your phone will cause it to change exposure so you might be able to find the brightness you want that way. Otherwise the same technique you use for focus also alters exposure.  Just tap the area you want to be bright (or darker) and as well as the focus square you’ll see a little vertical yellow line with a sunshine.  Just move your finger up or down and what the image get brighter or darker.

If you want the focus AND exposure to jump back to the default setting after you’ve take one photo (cos you spent a bit of time getting it just so!), just hold your finger on the screen for a couple of seconds and AE/AF Lock will appear in a yellow block meaning you are good to take a whole lot of images with that setting.

 

 

The year that was in travel is the year that is.  And, it’s the year ahead in 2020.

Every 31 December we ask ourselves – “Where did the year go?  It feels like January was just yesterday”.  Why does time feel like it slips by so fast?  

Is it because technology steals so much time from us?  Our work days find us in front of computer screens and in our spare time we are always tip-tapping on our mobile phones or tablets?  Our meals are delivered to us quickly in restaurants.  And, we better hurry because “this deal” won’t last.  It seems as if we are continuously in a race against time. 

Is time the friend of anyone amongst us?  Time is certainly no friend of mine.  There is never enough time in my days, weeks or months to check off my to-do list.  I’m fairly certain my to-do list grows faster than the things I get done.  Is there anyway to slow time?  Is there any way to make 2020 move slower so we can savour the days?

2019 was a remarkable year in more ways than one.  I use the term remarkable as it can refer to both good and bad.  Everyone’s year is filled with both good and bad so I can’t very well say my circumstances are special.  They are unique to me, however.

People come and go from our lives.  Life becomes fresh as new and interesting people come into our lives.  There is a lesson to learn from every person who crosses our paths.  It is up to us to decide what to do not only with the lessons but the people we meet.  

Richard Bach said it best in his book, “Illusions” – one of my favourites.  Bach said, “Every person, every event in our lives is there because we have drawn them there.  What we choose to do with them is up to us.”  

I read the book and the quote more than twenty years ago.  The words made such an impact on me, I remember and use them today.  The quote refers to the good people in our lives, tho’ unfortunately, the bad people as well.  I won’t go into details but I can say I’ve been betrayed, told I was loved when I wasn’t, used, taken advantage of and  lied to as well.  At one point it got so bad I had to question what is happening in our world.  Where did all the good people go?

I still wonder and sadly I’ve had to become weary and cautious.  I’m a genuine sort of guy who prefers to see the good in people.  I’m kind and I’ll do almost anything to help you, if I can.  I won’t change they way I live and see life.  I’ll simply be smarter in 2020 and beyond.

When you travel like I do, my travel experiences are also my life experiences.  I talk a lot about opening your mind and heart while travelling.  Throughout the blog I talk about the good people I’ve met.  I stay away from talking about the not so good people I meet along the way.  Today I’ve chosen to only refer to the bad seeds.

Instead of harbouring feelings of anger and hurt, I turn to myself.  I’m always comfortable with who and what I am.  I’m also aware I can always be better.  What can I do to improve?  I take stock of myself and take steps to become a better person.  I want to be better not only for myself but for the people in my life as well.

All that said, how can I put a year of travel into one video?  Over 4,000 travel photos – all with an iPhone – in one fast paced video.  Four minutes and thirty seconds.  That’s a lot of time in our fast-paced world.  Thanks for taking the journey with me.  I hope you enjoy.

Best of Luck to Everyone in 2020.

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Handy Tips for taking better travel photos with your iPhone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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