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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”.

Recoleta Cemetery: Buenos Aires, Argentina

recoleta cemetery in buenos aires

On top of a hill in one of Buenos Aires’ most upmarket neighbourhoods lies the city’s most curious yet captivating attraction: the Cementerio de la Recoleta.  It is a veritable city of the dead, populated by the tombs of Argentina’s deceased elite.  The list of people buried here includes national leaders, military personnel, Nobel Prize winners and wealthy citizens. Even Eva Peron, First Lady and champion of the poor and destitute, was eventually laid to rest here in a casket five meters below the surface.

At first glance it was clear to me that Recoleta Cemetery is, and always has been, a bastion of wealth.  Four towering white pillars hold up the entry gate; a forerunner of the grandeur that lies inside.  Many of the 6400 mausoleums built here are grand and ornate, and some are even works of art.  What they lack in size is more than made up for by the craftsmanship that went into creating them.  It seemed to me that these tombs stood primarily to draw attention and show off the status of their occupants.  I got the impression of huge self-importance and competing egos.  It appears that if one lived large in life, then one remains lavish after death. Needless to say, this place is definitely over the top.

The architecture and ornamentation seen within the cemetery is of many different styles, often in complete contrast to its surroundings.  Greek temples, Baroque chapels and charming Art Deco palaces sit side by side, with the occasional humbler brick structure in between.  The urban setting has confined them to being miniature versions of the buildings that inspired them.  More than a few have fallen into disrepair, and it was these that struck me most.  The task of restoration and upkeep falls to the descendants of the buried; perhaps some of these had no one left to look after them.  They were derelict, crumbling and neglected.  I wondered which once lauded member of Buenos Aires society lay beneath them.  Had their names been forgotten?  As souls pass on to eternity is everyone equal or are we all on different levels, as this cemetery seems to suggest?  Does wealth still matter after death?  Recoleta cemetery seems to tell a different story to what the scriptures preach. 


I was far more interested in the rustic, rugged beauty of these decaying tombs than the grand opulence of the rest.  They inspired me to create a series of black and white film photographs that reflect the sombre, tranquil atmosphere that this place carries.  This particular medium also emphasizes the details, the difference between what remains and what has been lost to neglect.

You could spend hours wandering through the eerie roads of this cemetery.  Wide tree-lined avenues give way to narrow shadowed walkways. The layout is similar to planned out city blocks, complete with a central plaza.  The place has become a peaceful retreat for many local stray cats, although you are sure to pass more than a few tourists as well.  Symbolism runs rife, with religious statues watching over almost every tomb.  Masonic symbols can also be seen adorning walls and mantelpieces.  Bouquets of wilting flowers have been left behind by families and admirers seeking to pay their respects.  Wrought iron doors and window shutters, weeping angel statues and Lots of the mausoleums have glass faced windows, allowing passers-by to take a look inside to where the wooden coffins lie.

Countless stories and legends are tied to the cemetery.  Established as the city’s first public burial ground in 1822, it was at first unpopular, but eventually overtaken by the upper tiers of society.  Eva Peron is undoubtedly the name that draws the most visitors to her tomb – although its appearance is quite underwhelming – for her political actions and her commemoration in pop culture.  However, there are plenty more interesting characters that were laid to rest in Recoleta.  Some of them are even remembered with life like statues that represent their achievements and interests.  Each mausoleum bears its family name, and they carry on the tradition of listing dates of passing but not dates of birth.

If you happen to be in Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery is definitely worth dedicating an afternoon to, to stroll its walkways in quiet reflection.  Spend some time admiring the remarkable architecture and sculpture and you will probably find yourself in a contemplative mood.  The cemetery is open from 8 am to 6 pm every day, and there is no entrance fee.  If you are interested in learning more of the history, there are English speaking tours at 11 am every Tuesday and Thursday.

Directions:

Recoleta Cemetery is easy to find.  Head to Las Heras Avenue, and keep walking down it until you reach Junin. Then continue for two more blocks until you reach Vicente Lopez street.  At this point you should be able to see the huge wall that surrounds the cemetery.

Map Showing the Location of Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires ::
MAP SHOWING LOCATION OF RECOLETA CEMETERY

 

One of the great lessons while traveling is keeping one’s eyes and senses open to all of the quirky, fun and beautiful things in our world.  It’s often the “small things” that make us smile or laugh.  We might even have our Western sensibilities challenged.  What is normal and acceptable in the destination you’re visiting might be just the opposite in your own home town.

Finding the quirks in the world is one of the great parts about travel.  And when I say quirks, what I really refer to are the things we are not used to.  I talk a lot about how travel is the best education anyone can receive and it’s true.  It is the unexpected moments that we witness, smell, taste, hear and even step over that we will remember long after we’ve left a place.  This is travel and what travel should be.

Have you had these moments?

I’ll never forget going to my first full moon ceremony in Bali.  I had just arrived, turned the corner and saw a pig’s throat slit and watched its blood drain into a bucket.  Sure it was alarming at first, but the act is also a common part of the ritual during the ceremony.  The Balinese are fine with the sacrifice and I shouldn’t be the one to judge their traditions. 

Eid Al-Adha is a ritual in Islam when a sheep, cow or a camel are sacrificed in the memory of Abraham who was stopped from slitting his son’s neck on Mount Arafat by the angel Gabriel.  Abraham was willing to slay his son at Allah’s request as a supreme act of faith.  The angel, Gabriel, prevented Abraham from going through with it, saying he had already demonstrated his love for god.  Instead, a goat was slaughtered.

The traditional ritual continues today.  I’ll never forget the chorus of bah, bah, bah from sheep who were kept in everyone’s home the night before the slaughter.  The King of Morocco is the first to commit the act on live television.  Once the king sacrifices his sheep, the rest of Morocco can follow suit.  After countless slaughters, I was stepping through rivers of sheep blood as I walked through the Old Medina.  Believe you me, I’ll never forget this experience.

Not all travel memories are so dramatic.  I loved the little boy standing next to a British guard at Horseguards Palace for a photo.  Curiously, the boy peered behind the guard then turned back with a huge smile.  In Tokyo I saw a sign outside a barber shop with a menu of prices pinned to the door.  Instead of price list, the sign read “Price Rist.”  I found that charming and couldn’t resist going in to have my hair cut.

I also loved the woman walking down a Tokyo street wearing a Geisha outfit.  We don’t expect to see sights like that in our modern world.

There are a lot of moments waiting for you as you travel – moments that make you go “Hmm…”  So, keep your senses on high alert.  Don’t be offended or startled if something you experience doesn’t meet the criteria of the Western world.   Embrace everything you see, hear, touch, taste and smell as part of your experience.  Be ready to be challenged and grow from your travel.  You might even have a travel experience of a lifetime.

As you travel around the world or even in your own city, you’ll want to take some of the best travel photos you’ve ever taken.  Consider the following iPhone travel photography tips so you can take great photos.

You Can Zoom in the Dark
One of the best upgrades on the iPhone X is its better 2x lens, especially in low light. That means you can use both lenses, regardless of the lighting conditions, without sacrificing image quality.

Try Brightening the Scene With a Flash
We typically think of smartphone flashes as cold, harsh, and [unflattering]. But the iPhone X’s new technology, called Slow Sync, has made it possible for the camera to capture beautiful, warm images while using the device’s cutting-edge Quad-LED True Tone flash.  Give this a try in a dim restaurant or outside, after sunset.

Play With New Live Photo Effects
While capturing live photos — or images with a few seconds of video before, the iPhone X has a trio of effects utilizing this technology.  Now, you can blur the action like a DSLR camera with the Long Exposure setting (for smooth waterfalls), create a continuous Loop, or make a Boomerang-like Bounce that plays the action backward and forward.

Try Portrait Mode on Food
The iPhone X made major advances with the Portrait mode.  In addition to capturing beautiful portraits with blurred backgrounds,  try the setting on food photography.

The iPhone X also has five new lighting modes for Portraits, including natural light, studio light, contour light (for dramatic shadows), stage lights (to illuminate subjects against a black background), and mono (to produce stage light-like photos in black and white).

Experiment With Burst Mode
For your best chance at the perfect shot, use the phone’s Burst Mode to shoot 10 pictures per second. To use this feature, simply hold down the shutter button in your Camera app.

Travel photography is often about capturing a fleeting moment.

Don’t Forget About Video
If you see amazing clouds slowly moving across the sky, for example, you might use time-lapse mode.  But if the scene features super fast motion like birds landing in water, you should try slo-mo.

 

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.