Tag

Europe

Browsing

For most of us, This is Paris –
“I love Paris in the spring time 
I love Paris in the fall 
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles 
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris every moment 
Every moment of the year 
I love Paris
Why oh why do I love Paris 
Because my love is here
I love Paris every moment 
Every moment of the year 
I love Paris
Why oh why do I love Paris 
Because my love is here”
There are so many iconic sights and neighborhoods in Paris so you can’t go wrong anywhere you go.  My best suggestions are learn how to efficiently use the Paris Metro and know where your walking so you can navigate your way on foot.
My next suggestion is one I’d give no matter where you travel in this world.  Don’t be a tourist.  Don’t act like a tourist.
If you know a handful of French words and can string together a sentence, use them.  The French appreciate anyone who tries to speak their language.  Parisians might chuckle at you, but they mean it in an admirable way.
Being in Paris is more of a feeling than rushing around checking off a list of things to do and see.  Walk along the Seine River and wonder what it must have been like a hundred years ago.   Bring out your artistic flare and imagine what it must have been like for Gertrude Stein to give Picasso, Henry Matisse and Ernest Hemingway their big break.  Splurge and enjoy proper French cuisine at a Michelin Star restaurant.
Feel the energy of Paris.  Have a sordid affair and know first hand what romance is.  Paris is romance and as she shines and glows at night.  Take every bit of her deep into your soul.  And if you want to take the words affair and romance literally, know that the French make great lovers.  Trust me, I speak from experience.
Throw caution to the wind and let yourself go.  This is what Paris is for me.  Go visit Paris for a once in a lifetime experience.  And while you are doing this, you’ll pass the brilliant Parisian sights along the way.  Snap a few photos, if you must, but take my advice and you’ll have memories to last you forever.
If you’re keen to capture Paris with your camera, know Paris is a playground for photographers.  Keep the following travel photo tips in mind as you click your camera’s shutter.
Get Up Early and stay out for sunset

The Blue Hour is my favorite time of the day.  It’s also the best time to shoot, so get outdoors one hour before sunrise and one hour before sunset.  The lighting is incredible, as is the lack of tourists.

Always Ask permission

Don’t be shy about taking photos of people on your travels, but always ask.  It’s impolite if you don’t.  Plucking up the courage is daunting, but the worst they can say is no.

Practice and Watch

Photography is a lot of fun, but it’s also challenging.  Before you go on your next adventure, research techniques, attend workshops, watch how-to videos on YouTube, and practice.  Practice a lot.  Improving your craft will make snapping on your travels rewarding.

Shoot Straight

Ever taken a photo of a beautiful landscape only to find later on that you weren’t holding your camera phone straight? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. Luckily, your iPhone can automatically straighten an image or you can do it manually in the phone editing app.

Choose Your Background

When you travel, you’re often spoiled with choices when it comes to taking photos.  So when picking your background, look for lots of texture, patterns and color.

Get Into Nature

Get outside and into nature on your travels.  Hike trails, climb mountains, explore forests, and swim in waterfalls.

Take Natural Shots

Sometimes posed photos on your travels can lack a certain authenticity.  Shoot your subject doing something from his or her normal daily life; crossing the street, exploring a marketplace, and lunching with friends are great places to start.

Use the Rule of Three

When taking photos on your travels, divide the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, otherwise known as the rule of three.  It’s well known in photography circles that if you place the subject along these lines or at their intersections, it creates more interest in your images.

Photograph a Variety of People

Photograph people dressed in national costume as well as locals handpicking fruit in a market—mix it up between men and women, children and adults to get a variety of photos.

Get Higher

This is my favorite tip because shooting Instagram photos from higher ground equals an amazing view.  Try it!  And, try going down low, too.

Lighting is King

The difference between good lighting and bad lighting is simple—natural light.  Always shoot in natural light, and avoid using flash on your phone.  If you still can’t quite get the image bright or light enough, simply use the brightness tool in a photo-editing app.

Use a Great Caption

Even though Instagram is a photo app, sometimes (if not all the time) the caption is just as important.  Use puns, humor, and emotive descriptions to connect with people.

Get Off the Beaten Path

Some of the best photos I’ve taken have been when I explored beyond the beaten path.  My Kathmandu images and Macao photos are a great example.  Road trips are perfect for taking photos where there is no one other than you and the landscape in front of you.

Give Perspective

To give a subject perspective, whether it’s a waterfall, a mountain, or a bustling city, get a person to stand in your photo wearing a bright top or jacket to give the photo perspective.

Don’t Stop Traveling

It’s simple. To take the best travel photos, don’t stop traveling and exploring.  Whether it’s your own city, a road trip out of town, or an adventure abroad, never stop moving and taking photos.  Practice does indeed make perfect.

Legend of Mont Saint Michel
by Guy de Maupassant

I had first seen it from Cancale, this fairy castle in the sea. I got an indistinct impression of it as of a gray shadow outlined against the misty sky. I saw it again from Avranches at sunset. The immense stretch of sand was red, the horizon was red, the whole boundless bay was red. The rocky castle rising out there in the distance like a weird, seignorial residence, like a dream palace, strange and beautiful-this alone remained black in the crimson light of the dying day.

The following morning at dawn I went toward it across the sands, my eyes fastened on this, gigantic jewel, as big as a mountain, cut like a cameo, and as dainty as lace. The nearer I approached the greater my admiration grew, for nothing in the world could be more wonderful or more perfect.

As surprised as if I had discovered the habitation of a god, I wandered through those halls supported by frail or massive columns, raising my eyes in wonder to those spires which looked like rockets starting for the sky, and to that marvellous assemblage of towers, of gargoyles, of slender and charming ornaments, a regular fireworks of stone, granite lace, a masterpiece of colossal and delicate architecture.

As I was looking up in ecstasy a Lower Normandy peasant came up to me and told me the story of the great quarrel between Saint Michael and the devil.

A sceptical genius has said: “God made man in his image and man has returned the compliment.”

This saying is an eternal truth, and it would be very curious to write the history of the local divinity of every continent as well as the history of the patron saints in each one of our provinces. The negro has his ferocious man-eating idols; the polygamous Mahometan fills his paradise with women; the Greeks, like a practical people, deified all the passions.

Every village in France is under the influence of some protecting saint, modelled according to the characteristics of the inhabitants.

Saint Michael watches over Lower Normandy, Saint Michael, the radiant and victorious angel, the sword-carrier, the hero of Heaven, the victorious, the conqueror of Satan.

But this is how the Lower Normandy peasant, cunning, deceitful and tricky, understands and tells of the struggle between the great saint and the devil.

To escape from the malice of his neighbor, the devil, Saint Michael built himself, in the open ocean, this habitation worthy of an archangel; and only such a saint could build a residence of such magnificence.

But as he still feared the approaches of the wicked one, he surrounded his domains by quicksands, more treacherous even than the sea.

The devil lived in a humble cottage on the hill, but he owned all the salt marshes, the rich lands where grow the finest crops, the wooded valleys and all the fertile hills of the country, while the saint a ruled only over the sands. Therefore Satan was rich, whereas Saint Michael was as poor as a church mouse.

After a few years of fasting the saint grew tired of this state of affairs and began to think of some compromise with the devil, but the matter was by no means easy, as Satan kept a good hold on his crops.

He thought the thing over for about six months; then one morning he walked across to the shore. The demon was eating his soup in front of his door when he saw the saint. He immediately rushed toward him, kissed the hem of his sleeve, invited him in and offered him refreshments.

Saint Michael drank a bowl of milk and then began: “I have come here to propose to you a good bargain.”

The devil, candid and trustful, answered: “That will suit me.” “Here it is. Give me all your lands.”

Satan, growing alarmed, wished to speak “But —”

The saint continued: “Listen first. Give me all your lands. I will take care of all the work, the ploughing, the sowing, the fertilizing, everything, and we will share the crops equally. How does that suit you?”

The devil, who was naturally lazy, accepted. He only demanded in addition a few of those delicious gray mullet which are caught around the solitary mount. Saint Michael promised the fish.

They grasped hands and spat on the ground to show that it was a bargain, and the saint continued: “See here, so that you will have nothing to complain of, choose that part of the crops which you prefer: the part that grows above ground or the part that stays in the ground.” Satan cried out: “I will take all that will be above ground.”

“It’s a bargain!” said the saint. And he went away.

Six months later, all over the immense domain of the devil, one could see nothing but carrots, turnips, onions, salsify, all the plants whose juicy roots are good and savory and whose useless leaves are good for nothing but for feeding animals.

Satan wished to break the contract, calling Saint Michael a swindler.
But the saint, who had developed quite a taste for agriculture, went back to see the devil and said:

“Really, I hadn’t thought of that at all; it was just an accident, no fault of mine. And to make things fair with you, this year I’ll let you take everything that is under the ground.”

“Very well,” answered Satan.

The following spring all the evil spirit’s lands were covered with golden wheat, oats as big as beans, flax, magnificent colza, red clover, peas, cabbage, artichokes, everything that develops into grains or fruit in the sunlight.

Once more Satan received nothing, and this time he completely lost his temper. He took back his fields and remained deaf to all the fresh propositions of his neighbor.

A whole year rolled by. From the top of his lonely manor Saint Michael looked at the distant and fertile lands and watched the devil direct the work, take in his crops and thresh the wheat. And he grew angry, exasperated at his powerlessness.

As he was no longer able to deceive Satan, he decided to wreak vengeance on him, and he went out to invite him to dinner for the following Monday.

“You have been very unfortunate in your dealings with me,” he said; “I know it, but I don’t want any ill feeling between us, and I expect you to dine with me. I’ll give you some good things to eat.”

Satan, who was as greedy as he was lazy, accepted eagerly. On the day appointed he donned his finest clothes and set out for the castle.

Saint Michael sat him down to a magnificent meal. First there was a ‘vol-au-vent’, full of cocks’ crests and kidneys, with meat- balls, then two big gray mullet with cream sauce, a turkey stuffed with chestnuts soaked in wine, some salt-marsh lamb as tender as cake, vegetables which melted in the mouth and nice hot pancake which was brought on smoking and spreading a delicious odor of butter.

They drank new, sweet, sparkling cider and heady red wine, and after each course they whetted their appetites with some old apple brandy.

The devil drank and ate to his heart’s content; in fact he took so much that he was very uncomfortable, and began to retch.

Then Saint Michael arose in anger and cried in a voice like thunder: “What! before me, rascal! You dare — before me —”

Satan, terrified, ran away, and the saint, seizing a stick, pursued him. They ran through the halls, turning round the pillars, running up the staircases, galloping along the cornices, jumping from gargoyle to gargoyle. The poor devil, who was woefully ill, was running about madly and trying hard to escape. At last he found himself at the top of the last terrace, right at the top, from which could be seen the immense bay, with its distant towns, sands and pastures. He could no longer escape, and the saint came up behind him and gave him a furious kick, which shot him through space like a cannonball.

He shot through the air like a javelin and fell heavily before the town of Mortain. His horns and claws stuck deep into the rock, which keeps through eternity the traces of this fall of Satan.

He stood up again, limping, crippled until the end of time, and as he looked at this fatal castle in the distance, standing out against the setting sun, he understood well that he would always be vanquished in this unequal struggle, and he went away limping, heading for distant countries, leaving to his enemy his fields, his hills, his valleys and his marshes.

And this is how Saint Michael, the patron saint of Normandy, vanquished the devil.

Another people would have dreamed of this battle in an entirely different manner.

Mont Saint Michel and the Milky Way

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence (available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/au/)

Venice Italy is pure magic.  This is Venice and magic is what I tell everyone who asks me for travel advice.

Consider nearly 400 ancient bridges to cross, tall campaniles defining the city’s skyline, stone walkways,  150 canals, 139 churches, a myriad of fascinating museums, St Mark’s Square and Italian gelato that will satisfy your tastebuds as you meander your way through the timeless islands.  

There are no cars in Venice.  The roads are indeed the city’s canals and if you want to be transported, your only choices are the iconic gondolas, private water taxis and public waterbus which is the vaporetto.  If you’re lucky, Venice will experience a mild Acqua Alta while you’re in St. Mark’s Square as there’s nothing quite like it.

You might feel as if you’re on a movie set as Venice doesn’t seem real at first tho’ the city is indeed a living breathing real place where people live and work.  Be respectful as tensions toward tourists run a bit high these days.

Be prepared to think you’re lost but also be prepared to throw away your map as a map will only frustrate you.  Meander your way through the narrow alleys and simply be pleasantly surprised when you reach one of the public squares where you’re sure to find shops and cafes.

Venice is splendid to discover.  Take your time and take it all in.  The city is pure sensory overload.  Enjoy the video presentation with images captured purely with an iPhone.

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

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.

Have you seen movies where a person looks through a keyhole? On the viewer’s side, the side where the person looking through the keyhole, the scene is dark and perhaps ominous? Through the keyhole might be a mysterious scene or even something magical?

As viewers of the movie, we are taken into a scene and we feel as if we’re part of the action. Not only is the actor in the movie looking through the keyhole, but we are as well. We see what the actor sees at the very same time. We feel the suspense, angst, shock, horror, joy, enchantment – whatever emotion the moviemaker wants us to feel, we feel it, too.

This is an effective method in moviemaking and cinematography as we become part of the action. This is also an effective method in photography.

As photographers it is important to draw the viewers of your photographs into your image. Your photograph is the keyhole, so to speak, that allows viewers to experience or view what you have seen and captured with your camera. If your viewers can be drawn into your photo, then they will feel the emotion or feeling that you’re trying to convey. And, if you can draw viewers in and make them feel a certain way, then you my friend, are not a picture taker but instead a photographer.

How do you draw people into your photographs? You begin by mastering photo composition. You master photo composition by practicing all key elements until they become second nature to you. Becoming a great photographer really is that simple tho’ it is a lot of work.

One suggestion regarding photo composition is to challenge yourself. One way to challenge yourself is to change the camera you use. For example, if you typically shoot with a digital camera of any sort or a mobile phone, let’s say, then switch to a film camera for a day or even a week.

You can pick up inexpensive film cameras at ebay. And yes, you can still purchase film and have it professionally developed.

I have a variety of film cameras but for this blog post I chose the Fisheye camera from Lomography. I also chose black and white film. Better still, I chose London as my backdrop.

The cool thing about Lomo’s Fisheye camera is the captured image is actually a circle with a pronounced black border. Basically, the result is like looking through a keyhole – at least that’s how I see it.

I’ve included a variety of images I captured over a week’s time. The shots are entirely random tho’ you’ll recognise some of the scenes. Have a look at the photos. Are they the best images of London you’ve ever seen? No. They are not the best images I’ve seen either. The better question is – have you seen London portrayed this way before? Unless you’ve practiced this same photo exercise, your answer is undoubtedly a no.

Photographing a familiar scene in a new way with a new perspective and with a camera you’re not entirely familiar with will allow you the freedom to explore and test your creativity.

It is easy to be comfortable. It’s easy to always surround yourself with the familiar. The easy way is not the best way to improve your photography skills.

You will grow by challenging yourself. You’ll reach new levels of achievement by stepping away from your comfort zone.

It’s safe to say you’ll surprise even yourself by creating a masterful composition that draws your viewer into your vision. And in the end, involving the viewers of your photographs is exactly what you want.

The following is an exerpt from “Alice Through the Looking Glass”.
Notice how Alice first envisions what life might be if she and kitty could go through the looking-glass house. In an instant, Alice does go through the looking glass and she takes us with her when she does. This is exactly what you want to do with the viewers of your photographs.

“But this is taking us away from Alice’s speech to the kitten. ‘Let’s pretend that you’re the Red Queen, Kitty! Do you know, I think if you sat up and folded your arms, you’d look exactly like her. Now do try, there’s a dear!’ And Alice got the Red Queen off the table, and set it up before the kitten as a model for it to imitate: however, the thing didn’t succeed, principally, Alice said, because the kitten wouldn’t fold its arms properly. So, to punish it, she held it up to the Looking-glass, that it might see how sulky it was—‘and if you’re not good directly,’ she added, ‘I’ll put you through into Looking-glass House. How would you like that?’

‘Now, if you’ll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I’ll tell you all my ideas about Looking-glass House. First, there’s the room you can see through the glass—that’s just the same as our drawing room, only the things go the other way. I can see all of it when I get upon a chair—all but the bit behind the fireplace. Oh! I do so wish I could see that bit! I want so much to know whether they’ve a fire in the winter: you never can tell, you know, unless our fire smokes, and then smoke comes up in that room too—but that may be only pretence, just to make it look as if they had a fire. Well then, the books are something like our books, only the words go the wrong way; I know that, because I’ve held up one of our books to the glass, and then they hold up one in the other room.

‘How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty? I wonder if they’d give you milk in there? Perhaps Looking-glass milk isn’t good to drink—But oh, Kitty! now we come to the passage. You can just see a little peep of the passage in Looking-glass House, if you leave the door of our drawing-room wide open: and it’s very like our passage as far as you can see, only you know it may be quite different on beyond. Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through—’ She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist.

In another moment Alice was through the glass, and had jumped lightly down into the Looking-glass room. The very first thing she did was to look whether there was a fire in the fireplace, and she was quite pleased to find that there was a real one, blazing away as brightly as the one she had left behind. ‘So I shall be as warm here as I was in the old room,’ thought Alice: ‘warmer, in fact, because there’ll be no one here to scold me away from the fire. Oh, what fun it’ll be, when they see me through the glass in here, and can’t get at me!’

Then she began looking about, and noticed that what could be seen from the old room was quite common and uninteresting, but that all the rest was as different as possible. For instance, the pictures on the wall next the fire seemed to be all alive, and the very clock on the chimney-piece (you know you can only see the back of it in the Looking-glass) had got the face of a little old man, and grinned at her.”

Mont Saint Michel is a small rocky islet, roughly one kilometer from the north coast of France at the mouth of the Couesnon River, near Avranches in Normandy, close to the border of Brittany. It is home to the unusual Benedictine Abbey Church (built between the 11th and 16th centuries) which occupies most of the one kilometer diameter clump of rocks jutting out of the ocean.

It is connected to the mainland via a thin natural land bridge, which before modernization was covered at high tide, and revealed at low tide. Thus, Mont Saint Michel gained a mystical quality, being an island half the time, and being attached to land the other : a tidal island.

In 708 the Archangel Michael appeared to Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, and commanded him to build a chapel on the top of Mont Tombe, a rocky island in the middle of an immense bay. Overawed by this apparition, Aubert obeyed and built a sanctuary to the glory of God and Archangel Michael.

Throughout its long history, Mont Saint Michel has had many roles. First a religious sanctuary with its monastic communities, it became a place of worship with its immense pilgrimages, a centre of intense academic activity with its production of manuscripts and illuminations, a symbol of national resistance with the glorious feats of arms of its knights and a formidable prison when the priests were ousted in the French Revolution of 1789, putting an end to the religious vocation of Mont Saint Michel.

In 1870 Mont Saint Michel ceased to be a prison. It became a historic monument which gradually became a tourist centre.

The religious vocation of Mont Saint Michel was re-established in 1965 with the arrival of monastic communities from Jerusalem perpetuating Mont Saint Michel’s thousand- year old spiritual heritage.

In 1972 UNESCO classified Mont Saint-Michel as a “natural and cultural World Heritage Site”. Mont Saint Michel is also called one of the “wonder of the Occident”.

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.

 

 

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.

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.