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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.

Bali is known as the “Island of Gods” for good reason.  Take yourself away from your lush resort for a few hours and visit a Temple Ceremony.  Ceremonies in Bali Temples include offerings to the gods, colorful processions, prayer, dances, music and abundant feasts.   All members of a community – men, women and children play roles during a multi-day ceremony.  

Stay more than a few hours and you’ll be part of the family – the village family that is.  The Balinese are genuinely friendly.  They are just as curious about you as you are about them.  Strike up a conversation and you might be invited to a cremation ceremony, tooth filing ceremonies or a birth celebration.

The video in this blog post shows a group of children playing music you’ll hear at almost any Bali Temple Ceremony.  Mothers watch with pride and encourage their sons to make beautiful music. This particular ceremony was a full moon ceremony, or Purnama.  There are actually seven important ceremonies or religious festivals throughout the year in Bali and they are described below.

Full Moon

A Full Moon is believed to be the day when God answers prayers and it is considered to be a favorable day to plant things in the garden, especially fruit plants. Purnama helps to obtain an abundant harvest the following year.

The Balinese prayers includes honouring the shadow and light to find balance in life. This play of opposing forces and the acceptance of light and dark, joy and sorrow, benevolence as well as maliciousness is called Rwa Binneda in Balinese culture.

Nyepi Day

The day of silence across Bali.   The month of March brings Nyepi – the day of silence throughout the whole of Bali.  In the Balinese lunar calendar (Saka), Nyepi is New Year’s Day.  It is a day wholly dedicated to rest, staying in, turning off the lights and keeping quiet for 24 hours.  It is one of the biggest and most unique ceremonies of the year, where staying in and resting is enforced by law.  It is practiced island-wide where the Balinese dedicate an entire day to introspection and spiritual cleansing.  No businesses are open, no transport is allowed on the roads (except for emergency services) the airport even shuts down for 24 hours.  Nyepi is a sacred day to give the island a break from 364 days of human activity, so Bali can replenish and recharge for the new year.  Nyepi is a 6-day long festival, the ‘silent’ day falls on day 3 and is the most important and sacred Hindu holiday in Bali.  It is also a public holiday for the rest of Indonesia.

Galungan and Kuningan

Galungan is a Balinese holiday which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma (the triumph of good over evil).  It marks the time when ancestral spirits of deceased relatives visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they leave earth.  The spirits of deceased relatives return to visit their former homes and the Balinese have a responsibility to be hospitable and welcoming to their past ancestors through prayers and offerings throughout their home.  The most obvious sign of the celebrations are the penjor – bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end which line the roads.

Tumpek Kandang

Tumpek Kandang is the day to worship Sang Hyang Rare-Angon, the God of animals.  The name of Tumpek Kandang is derived from two words, “Tumpek” meaning Saturday and “Kandang”, the Balinese word for the household animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs, and birds – all of which are highly valued by the Balinese.  On this day, pigs are usually decorated with a white cloth wrapping their bellies.  The animals are then fed with special foods, sprinkled with rice and holy water and prayers are offered.

Tumpek Landep

Nowadays Tumpek Landep is a ceremonial day at which offerings are made for objects that are made of metal.  The ceremonies start in the morning hours at the village temple when people gather for special prayers and blessings.  Afterwards, at the home compounds, additional ceremonies and blessings follow at which offerings are made for the holy family keris that most families own, but also for cars and motorbikes.  In these modern times, also other objects that contain metal, such as computers, may be subject to these ceremonies.  Most Balinese people truly believe that these ceremonies and blessings will bring them luck and keep them safe in traffic.  Tragically, at the day of Tumpek Landep the hospitals in Bali show a peak in the treatments of especially motorbike accidents.

Pagarwesi

Pagerwesi is the day when the Balinese strengthen their minds and souls against evil forces. Pagerwesi is also called “rerainan gumi” by the Balinese and means the holiday for everyone from every background – from the families of priests to the common families.

The Balinese celebrate the Pagerwesi ceremony every six months according to the Balinese pawukon calendar, the celebration is usually three days after Saraswati.  Pagerwesi derives from the two Balinese words pager and wesi, which means fence and iron.  The iron fence is a symbol of strong self-protection and on pagerwesi the Balinese focus on building a strong personal fortification to ensure that evil doesn’t enter their minds, speech and deeds, to avoid harm to their surroundings.

Odalan

In Bali there are over 4,500 temples where ceremonies take place almost every day of the year and Odalan is the celebration of each temple’s anniversary.   Temple festivals are held on the anniversary of when the temple was consecrated and usually on a new or full moon.

An Odalan or temple ceremony usually lasts for three days, but larger ones, which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years, can last for 11 days or longer.  The gist of what is happening here is that the Balinese are honoring the deities that rule over the temple by giving them a myriad of offerings, performances of vocal music, dance and gamelan music.

 

Destination:  Bali

Our world is under a lot of pressure these days.  This is true on either side of the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.  I’m unsure what’s happening to be honest except everyone is beyond stressed and no one can say anything right.  If you want an escape from the madness, there is a tiny little Buddhist Kingdom at the base of the mighty Himalaya Mountains called Bhutan.  Some refer to Bhutan the Last Shangri-La.

You know you’re in a special place even before landing at the airport in Paro.  Pilots skillfully navigate between massive mountain ranges as if they are meandering on a mountain road.  It’s incredible.  If you’re lucky enough to sit next to a window, you’ll have a delightful landscape show that you’ll never expect.

You’ll also know you’re in a one of a kind destination when you pick up your luggage from the one and only carousel in the airport terminal.

Your Bhutanese experience will only continue to get better day by day.  What I’m really saying is you won’t have a bad experience in Bhutan.  The Bhutanese are beautiful, peaceful and well beyond friendly.  Their smiles will make you melt.  Do keep in mind the Bhutanese enjoy their quiet so keep your Western voices down to a minimum.  

Schedule your journey to Bhutan to coincide with one of the many festivals that take place throughout the year.   You’ll be treated to traditional Bhutanese music and dancing.  The most intriguing part of any festival is the display of devotion to Buddha and the Buddhist ceremonies that take place.  

Typically, festivals take place at a town’s dzong, which in olden times were large fortresses.  Today the dzongs are home to local government councils and offices.  Besides the glorious Himalaya Mountains that surround you in almost any place you find yourself in Bhutan, the Bhutanese architecture is just as grand and incredible to see.  Be sure to pay attention to the minute details as most buildings feature brilliant woodcarvings and intricate painting designs.

Allow yourself enough time to travel beyond Paro and Thimphu, the capital city.  Once your driver takes you past Thimphu, you’re basically on Himalayan mountain roads.  Believe me when I say – you’re in for a ride of a lifetime.  There is no straight smooth road through the mountains but the scenery is well beyond anything you’ve ever seen.  And if you’re lucky, you’ll find your head in the clouds as low clouds move in at dusk.  For me, having my head in the clouds was surreal and one of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

It was in Bhutan on the long uphill trail to Tiger’s Nest when I first realised selfies had grossly infected society.  I was only a few hundred yards from the pinnacle when a youngish American tourist whipped out his phone and declared – “It’s time for a selfie.”  Needless to say I was taken back and in disbelief that someone would think to take a photo of himself before considering he was at one of Bhutan’s most sacred sights.  Since then, of course, selfies have become more than common and might I add more than annoying.  Tiger’s Nest, however, remains a majestic sight and well worth the three hour trek it takes to reach it.  You can’t be disappointed, nor will you be.

Consider these iPhone travel photography tips so you can capture the best possible travel photos during your next adventurous journey.

LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

Few styles of photography grant solace to the wandering soul like landscape photography. It invites us to seek out the wild, lonely places of the world. It can also be challenging to do well.

SHOOT DURING THE GOLDEN AND BLUE HOURS

Any professional photographer will tell you that lighting is one of the most important elements to landing a great shot, and with landscapes the most superb lighting occurs during the golden and blue hours of the day. The golden hour is the hour just after the sun has risen or just before setting, when the light is warm, soft, and creating pleasant shadows. The blue hour is the hour just before dawn or just after sunset, when the light is fading but not yet fully dark. This is when some of the most glorious sunrise/sunset effects happen. It’s also the best time to photograph cities, as there is still light in the sky yet the lights in the city are also on. Both of these hours will make for stellar shots. Conversely, the worst time to shoot is at noon (unless it’s a cloudy day), as you’ll get some harsh, unwelcoming light.

INVEST IN A TRAVELER’S TRIPOD

Some of the most dramatic landscapes can only be captured with longer exposures.  Blue hour, night time, and HDR photography will all need some form of camera stabilization, yet traditional tripods are both heavy and bulky.  That’s where a traveler tripod comes in.  Traveler tripods range from the small, flexible like the Gorilla Pod(which will fit in a small daypack), to the larger, near full-size tripods that are built light and collapse into a small bundle meant for traveling.  Which tripod you choose to add to your travel photography gear will depend on your budget, photography style, and the types of places you like to travel to, but having one will open up huge vistas of photographic opportunity for you.

DON’T FORGET TO USE THE FOREGROUND

It’s often challenging to capture that beauty in a 2-dimensional photo without something in the foreground to help put things in perspective. Incorporating a strong foreground into your photo will not only give context to the larger scene, it will also lend a sense of depth to your image that can be the difference between a flat, boring snapshot and an exceptional photo. Look for leading lines, interesting rocks, hill formations, or even just flowers. Just make sure that the elements you want to be sharp are in focus (which might mean using a higher f-stop).

ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

If you love traveling, you’re probably not immune to the immense beauty that lies in some of the world’s human-made structures.  Whether you like the technical aspects, the culture it represents, or just admire a fine building, it’s hard to avoid wanting to land some great architecture shots.

WATCH YOUR LINES

One of the most challenging aspects to photographing buildings is making sure the lines go where they’re supposed to.  Often we’re looking up at architectural elements, and that can cause the vertical lines to start to converge, making the building look like it’s falling backwards.  If you find this happening, try stepping back from the building or moving to a higher point of view.  Also make sure you edit your photos in a program that fixes lens distortions.  This will often clear up lines that you thought were straight but came out crooked once you’ve clicked the shutter.

DON’T FORGET THE HUMAN ELEMENT

Most travel photographers try to avoid having people in their architectural images, yet including them can really add a whole other dimension to your image.  After all, buildings were designed for and by people, and if we really want to capture the spirit of a place, then it makes sense to see it from the perspective of those living and working in it.  On a practical level, including people will lend a sense of scale and depth to the image.

EXPLORE THE DETAILS

If you’re looking for a more unique shot, trying capturing the individual elements of a building.  There are often plenty of details and geometric patterns in even the simplest of structures, whether built in or a product of light and shadow.  Notice how the lines interact with each other, how the light illuminates textures, where the shadows fall.  A little bit of exploration might not only grant you some fantastic shots, but may also lead you to discover something new or interesting about the building’s construction or history.

STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

Street photography and traveling are pretty much a match made in heaven. Wandering the streets of a strange town or city is one of the primary pleasures of traveling, and capturing the real-life stories of the streets can be some of the most meaningful photos you bring back.

Contrary to popular thought, one of the most tried and true methods of street photography is to find an interesting spot, compose your shot, and spend time waiting for something interesting to happen. One of the early masters of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson,  often waited hours for what he called “the decisive moment.” But whether you wait for half an hour while you sip a coffee or lie in wait for hours, you’ll probably find this style of street photography less invasive than other forms, as the subject will be entering your space, not the other way around. You’ll also be more prepared, which means more opportunity to land the shot successfully.

BE RESPECTFUL

While capturing truly candid moments is at the heart of most street photography, it’s important to remember that not everyone wants their photo taken or to have their image bouncing around on social media.  So while everyone in a public space may seem like fair game (which is legally true in the US), both individuals and cultures as a whole may not appreciate the “shoot from the hip” method or other forms of surreptitious photography.  From focusing on the whole scene to creating a connection with your subjects, there are many unobtrusive ways to capture real life on the streets, and if you are in doubt about a shot, try and talk to people that are identifiable and ask their permission if you plan to publish it.  It may not always be practical, but it something to consider.

HAVE YOUR CAMERA EASILY ACCESSIBLE

There’s nothing like seeing something amazing (or even merely interesting) happen directly in front of you and not being able to get your camera out in time to capture it.  The solution?  Always have your camera handy.  If you’re not wanting to lug around a bulky DSLR, consider investing in a lighter camera—the best street images aren’t amazing because of their megapixels, but because of their content and composition.  Conversely, if you love your DSLR, try investing in a camera bag that gives you super-quick access.  

BE SURE TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT GEAR

Believe it or not, drones actually do come in a size that you can take with you on a trip, but you’ll need to do your research to find the one that’s right for you.  The larger, more expensive ones will be able to take better photos, but tend to be, well, large.  (And therefore hard to pack.)  If you want one that fits in your bag, consider models like the DJI Spark or the GoPro Karma.  Both are reasonably priced and can fit into just about any travel bag.

STAY CHARGED UP

Like with any electronic device, having enough battery power and some to spare can prevent a lot of mishaps.  While a single battery can cover a lot of territory, it’s always a good idea to have at least one backup.  This give you peace of mind.  You’ll also want to remember any travel adapters or converters you’ll need for juicing up in other countries.

PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY
LOOK YOUR SUBJECT IN THE EYE

The eyes are a great place to focus your photos – whether you can see them or not!  By focusing on the subjects eyes and capturing the light you help bring life to the image and if taking portraits of children get down to their eye level to produce a more natural shot (rather than them looking up).  You can experiment with having your subject looking directly into the camera or looking at something beyond the camera to create a sense of intrigue, or removing the traditional ‘eye’ element completely whilst still focusing at eye level (below).

BACKGROUNDS AND FRAMING

The background can make a huge difference in a portrait shot.  Bright colours, stark whites, muted blacks etc but the background doesn’t have to be everything.  If you can’t find what you are looking to use try and incorporate branches or other natural elements in the foreground of the frame for a different effect.  If you can’t find either, be sure to use a wide angle lens and a longer focal length to blur your frame so all focus still falls on your subject. 

GET CLOSE TO YOUR SUBJECT

You’re allowed the break the rules of composition (shoot with reference to the rule of thirds) when it comes to shooting portraits.  Placing your subject away from the middle of the frame can create a dramatic effect.

 

If there is a single road that leads to a view unsurpassed by few others in the southwest, then surely Transmountain Road cutting through the Franklin Mountains would be it.  The winding and ascending journey along Transmountain will take one to 5120ft, which is where I stop one brisk January pre-dawn morning to watch the sun rise above the far horizon.

The temper of the mountain is calm at this hour, almost in a slumber in the brisk morning air.  No giant pine trees soften the winter wind whispering in my ear.  No singing birds or running deer to take my eye off the sky. Only high-elevation cacti and desert brush crawl along the rocks and boulders often jutting out like nature’s high rises descending in to the valleys on either side of the Franklins.

Looking west I see the near full moon sinking below the horizon.  Seconds later, I turn to the east marveling at a fiery ball nudging above the desert floor, and the royal blue sky rapidly transforms with bursts of splendid golden hues as if Mother Nature’s paintbrush splatters across the heavens. In an instant natural fireworks fill the sky as the moon sets and sun rises instantaneously as I watch in awe.  A moment passes and the sun’s rays stretch across East El Paso tickling the sides of the Franklin Mountains waking her for another day.

Gradually the glow of the rising sun ascends from the base of the mountain to its top as one slowly opens their eyes after a good night’s sleep.  A perfect mixture of burning red, glistening yellow, royal purple, and flaming orange sweep upward in a near swift motion as the sun reflects off of the quartzites, sands, limestones and marbles composing the mountain.  There is a sparkle in the Franklin’s “eye” as it resumes its role as the jewel of El Paso.

Overlooking the Rio Grande River, with broad fortitude, the Franklin Mountains are the northern ramparts of the Paso del Norte (Pass of the North), leading from Mexico into the United States.  The mountain range dominates the skyline of the city of El Paso beginning within the city limits in the south extending northward across the New Mexico border for a distance of about 15 miles (24km).  The Franklins are the southernmost extension of roughly continuous north-south ranges extending nearly 99 miles (160 km).  Today, Franklin Mountains State Park, established in 1979, is the largest urban park in the United States covering approximately 37 square miles and 24,247 acres, all within the city limits of El Paso.  The Franklin’s presence are an unmistakable beauty and vigor giving the city its natural character.

The advancing day with the blazing sun high above changes the mood of the mountains as they tower above the area, showing the strength of a wise old man (12,000 years and counting) El Pasoans respectfully know and love. Looking at its aged face, I can see its character lines and crevices showing thousands of years of life and experience.  From native Americans to gold- seekers to Spanish conquistadors on their mission to conquer and colonize the Puebloan villages in present-day New Mexico, the mountain range has indeed proven its endurance and resilience.  There is no doubt the Franklin’s are the physical strength of El Paso.

As the earth revolves once again with the sun descending in the western sky I can not resist watching the mountain relax almost as if it is letting out a deep breath after a long day’s work.  The face of the Franklin’s softens, often offering a reassuring smile with the changing light.  A chorus of golden amber and lush scarlet dance in unison, together with clouds catching the waning sun’s flare spilling even more color across the sky. Again, the rocks and boulders of the Franklin’s glimmer glorious red, purple and luxurious gold tones from the waning light from the setting sun , each winking at me as if to say goodnight.  Another dramatic end to a day. Another day in the life of El Paso’s Franklin Mountains.

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.