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Colorado is famous for its 52 fourteen thousand feet mountain peaks but one of its hidden treasures is situated in a river valley at 7,700 ft. in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.  Here lies the spectacular mountain town of Ouray in Southwest Colorado. This small intimate community is nestled in some of the most rugged and towering peaks of the Rockies and is set at the narrow head of a valley and surrounded on three sides with 14,000 feet snowcapped peaks – Ouray has been eloquently nicknamed the “Switzerland of America.”

Ouray officially began in 1876 with the eager stroke of the mining prospector’s pick; however, the future brought with it those simply inspired by its beauty.  Because of Ouray’s majestic peaks, cascading waterfalls, natural hot springs, the famous Million Dollar Highway and its reputation for being the Jeep Capital of the World, modern visitors flock to Ouray as much for its beauty as the miners of the past did for the riches they hoped to find.

The present year-round population of approximately 800 swells considerably in the summer months as thousands of travelers visit this unique valley but the town can not grow much and is only six blocks long and six blocks wide.  It is not uncommon to find a wandering bear or a family of deer crossing Main Street.  Ouray is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Whether you set out to conquer the mountains with rope and carbineer, on foot, bike, or four-wheel drive—there’s a route for everyone. There are panoramic vistas, mountain basins with waterfalls and wildflowers gracing each turn.  Autumn is truly an outstanding time of year, with aspen stands and mixed conifer forests exhibiting glorious displays of golden colors and an inspiring winter wonderland waiting to be discovered should one visit then.  At night when the lights meet the formations of ice and snow they join in a shimmering dance of magical light. There are few inhabited places where one can look up to view millions of stars and see the Milky Way so pronounced.  It’s no wonder that this area has been described as the “Gem of the Rockies.”  Remarkably, about two-thirds of Ouray houses original Victorian structures, both private and commercial, and have been lovingly restored in order to preserve their turn-of-the-century charm.

Ouray is the perfect retreat for rest and relaxation. Throw away your cares to experience the area’s outdoor opportunities or stop in one of the many reputable art galleries, shops and restaurants  that line Main Street.   After only a day you’ll find you, too, are a local and will realize this is one place you’ve visited that you won’t want to leave.  Only a nine hour drive from El Paso, this is a vacation you will want to remember for the rest of your life.  Take a step back in time to enjoy the Victorian architecture, friendly mountain people and a peaceful atmosphere that runs on its own time.  Reward yourself – escape to the dramatic and breathtaking beauty of Ouray and transform yourself in this year-round recreational playground.

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

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

Always Ask permission

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

Practice and Watch

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

Shoot Straight

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

Choose Your Background

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

Get Into Nature

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

Take Natural Shots

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

Use the Rule of Three

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

Photograph a Variety of People

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

Get Higher

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

Lighting is King

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

Use a Great Caption

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

Get Off the Beaten Path

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

Give Perspective

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

Don’t Stop Traveling

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

El Capitan, projecting from Texas’s highest mountain range, watches over me as I wander the barren salt flat at its base.   A pulsating wind whips down from the Guadalupe Mountain range as I survey the area for the ideal spot to set up my camera gear.  Each of my steps disrupts the slightly soft, cracked surface, leaving an unmistakable trail behind.  I stop, making sure my footprints are out of the image frame, when all of a sudden a blast of wind rips off my hat, sending it in a rapid tumble across the dry lake bed.  I lurch for it, my hand grabbed empty air, then I stood still and watched the hat whirl into the dusty West Texas sky and tumble only to disappear into the desert brush half a mile away. 

Strangely, there was an odd delight for me watching this, and I must wonder if El Capitan let out a slight chuckle at nature’s power over me.  Perhaps one day I will venture back in search of the lost hat, though I would be more inclined to search for new ways to capture these scenes in my lens.

The Guadalupe Mountains encompass parts of the most extensive Permian lime- stone fossil reef in the world.  Over two hundred fifty million years ago, a four- hundred-mile-long limestone reef formed along a shelf in the Permian Sea.  These mountains are part of the reef’s remains, shaped by thousands of years of  continuous weathering.

Guadalupe Peak is the highest peak and highest point in Texas, standing at 8,749 feet.  In 1972 the Guadalupe Mountains were designated a national park.

The meandering Salt Flat seen today at the base of the range is what remains of a series of shallow seas that covered much of the area two million years ago.  Sediments washed into the seas from the mountain slopes.  The water evaporated, leaving behind a thick layer of minerals, primarily table salt or gypsum.

I often find myself exploring Salt Flat as I find the landscape fascinating.  The stark white gypsum juxtaposed against the brown Chihuahua Desert is remarkable.  It almost reminds of the person who likes to stand out from the crowd, which by the way, I’m in complete agreement with.   The imposing Guadalupe Mountain range in the background simply epitomizes the popular saying – “Everything is bigger in Texas”.

Throughout West Texas and southern New Mexico, two-lane desert highways stretch to vanishing points on horizons that seem to reach infinity under a limitless dome of sky.  West Texas driving is like this.  It’s this wide open space that gives me a true sense of a spirit of freedom.

Four wheels rotating on the steamy blacktop, moving me forward to what looks like the edge of the earth.  Mile after mile, the landscape steadily zooms by, yet the destination ahead remains motionless, in full view.  Other than a stray tumbleweed rolling across the pavement on a windy day, or a few passing cars racing by, there is only wide-open space feeding the spirit of freedom I so very much adore.  Only in the western United States have I found this, and it is something I look forward to after being confined within urban boundaries and tall buildings of London or Hong Kong.  Often, it is the journey that opens my mind to any possibility, permitting me to truly appreciate the destination.   The drive also allows me nothing but time, which in every day life, is limited.

Legend of Mont Saint Michel
by Guy de Maupassant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Very well,” answered Satan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mont Saint Michel and the Milky Way

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

El Paso artists paint the town red – and just about every color.  More than a hundred murals dot the city, capturing the region’s cultural pride with depictions of community leaders, religious figures and other symbols.  Segundo Barrio (a neighbourhood along the USA – Mexico border) and downtown bear the lion’s share of these public art pieces; the neighborhoods themselves have become fitting places for art walks.

A 1975 mural in Segundo Barrio, at 513 Father Rahm Ave., is one of the oldest outdoor art pieces in the city.  Artists Arturo Avalos, Gabriel Ortega, Pablo Schaffino and Pascual Ramirez painted the Aztec geometric patterns that adorn the wall.  It’s become a symbol of pride for the area, nodding to El Paso’s close ties to Mexico and indigenous peoples.

Many other murals reflect the city’s cross-border cultural connections, like Animo Sin Fronteras (Spirit Without Borders), which features Melchor Flores flexing his muscles in the hear of downtown at Mills Avenue and Stanton Street.  The mural, by artists David Herrera and El Mac, captures the universal struggle for justice.

Also downtown, Reflection of the Desert, painted by Creative Kids, a nonprofit educational community-based art agency, showcases the desert landscape and the local ethos – a woman gazes across the horizon with determination El Pasoans are known for.  You’ll find this mural along the pedestrian walkway to the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Centre.

Murals in Union Plaza, a restaurant and nightlife hub next to Southwest University Park, present El Paso iconography, from the Star on the Mountain to “La Equis” in Ciudad Juárez. El Paso Wings, for instance, is a hidden picture hunt.  As you gaze at the work, Mount Cristo Rey, Aztec figures, the UTEP Miners’ pick, and other images reveal themselves – all reflections of the city’s vibrant culture and pride.

 

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”.