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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.

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

You’ll always remember London.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of Luck to Everyone in 2020.

What more could I say about White Sands in Southern New Mexico except This IS White Sands?   I’ve posted so many articles about the great white sand dunes found unexpectedly amongst the Chihuahua Desert.

The dunes are like an oasis in the middle of a brown desert.  They are more than crystals of gypsum.  They are more than curvaceous free formed dunes.  They are more than a stark and surreal landscape.

White Sands will touch your soul, if you let it.  Be prepared to let go of whatever troubles you and I can guarantee all of your problems will go away.  Everything is right in the world with each step you take.  The rough terrain may appear to be unforgiving, but you’ll be forgiven for whatever ails you.  

I’m serious.  These white sand dunes have a  healing power unlike most other landscapes in the world.  I say this with confidence as I’ve been around the world many times in my time.

The wind whispers in your ear and tells you everything will be ok.  Climbing a massive dune reminds you life can indeed be a struggle at times, but you will reach the top.  There is no other choice.  Each step you take in the incline also pushes you a foot behind.  You keep going, however, because giving up is not an option.  When you do reach the top of the mighty sand dune, you’re wrong to think you have nowhere else to go.  Instead, you accept another dune’s challenge and climb again.  And, that’s life.

It may sound odd to think such a simple landscape can teach you about life, comfort you or even help to solve your problems.  White Sands helped me when my father suddenly passed away.   White Sands is also the place I went to when I was coming to terms with living with HIV.   Every time I go into White Sands National Park with a problem I leave with the problem solved.  One could say it’s my touching stone.

If you are keen to capturing stunning travel photos with your iPhone, consider the following tips :: 

1.  Hold Your Phone Just Like You Hold Your Camera.

Use two hands to hold your iPhone just like you would with your DSLR or Point and Shoot. This extra stability will keep the camera from shaking and give you more control of your shots. Also imagine your iPhone screen as the viewfinder, like the one on your DSLR. When you see people shooting iPhone pictures they are always holding their phone out in front of them at a ridiculous angle and doing some strange straight-armed, head back, robot style movements.

2.  Pay Close Attention to Light

Light with any camera is important, but a cell phone camera has such a small image sensor it is even more important. The lower the light the more grainy your images will become. Unless you are taking photos of the sun and the sea keep the light behind you and your subject well lit. Don’t let this stop you from shooting night and dusk photo’s those, sometimes with the right angle and light you can get some amazing darker shots.

3.  Play Around And Experiment

None of these tips and tricks will be worth a damn if you don’t experiment and try things out. Spend a day and just go out and shoot. You will quickly learn how much light you need in certain situations, what produces blur, grain and a whole world of other problems that lead to your bad iPhone pictures.

4.  Zoom In With Your Feet and Not the iPhone Zoom

If you want to shoot something close up actually walk up to it, get close and click. The iPhone starts losing quality even with a tiny bit of zooming and it becomes really grainy and pixelated. Because the iPhone uses a digital zoom instead of an optical zoom like your point and shoot or DSLR may have, it is basically just cropping the photo in realtime.

5.  Take More Than One Photo 

The great thing about digital photography is it allows for a lot of attempts and a lot of mistakes. Add to that benefit, the speed and ease of a camera phone and you have the opportunity to take a few shots so one of them will be good. You can just take multiple shots of the same thing and one of them will be vastly better than the others.

Be careful though, you don’t want to delete those shots you think are no good when you are out and about because often when you get home the things you thought looked rubbish on your phone screen actually turn into interesting things on your computer monitor.

6.  Try Different Angles

The iPhone is so small and easy to use that you can get get down low and dirty with it or you can point it up and high really easily. You can move right on in to a shell or a flower and you can get it into awkward places and positions that would be more difficult to get to with a regular camera. So move it in bundles of different angles to see what you get.

7.  Keep The Camera Lens Clean.  Always Clean

All that sweat and grim on your hands will no doubt get all over your iPhone and all over the camera lens. I didn’t do this for ages and I don’t do it enough now still. Keep a cloth with you or wipe it clear with your sleeve and you may find your pictures come out much sharper and less blurry and foggy.

8.  Keep It Simple.  Avoid Clutter

Don’t have too much going on in your photo. This is one of the reasons a lot of phone photos are still fairly good even though they are pretty grainy and not even in the same league in sharpness and quality as a DSLR camera shot. This allows you to get away with a lot. Keeping one main subject and a scene where you want all/most of it in focus are best. This is how I take almost all of my photos with my iPhone.

9.  Avoid Using the Touch Screen Shutter Button

Did you know with your iPhone you can take a picture with the “+” volume button?  Go on, try it out. You can also use the “+” volume button on your Apple headphones as well. By using either of these methods you reduce the chance that you are going to shake or move the camera while snapping your pictures. This is a big deal when take nighttime shots.

10.  Use The Camera’s Grid Lines

If you touch “Options” on the top of the screen while in your “Camera” app it will bring up a menu that says “Grid” and “HDR.” Slide the “Grid” slider to on and you will see that a grid now shows on your screen. This is perfect for lining up shots such as a horizon or edge of a building. It also will help you use the rule of thirds to produce more interesting and artist photos.

11.  Use The HDR Function

HDR is a range of techniques geared toward representing more contrast in pictures. Non-HDR cameras take pictures at a single exposure level with a limited contrast range. This results in the loss of detail in bright or dark areas of a picture, depending on whether the camera had a low or high exposure setting. HDR compensates for this loss of detail by taking multiple pictures at different exposure levels and intelligently stitching them together so that we get a picture that is representative in both dark and bright areas.

As I stated above if you touch “Options” on the top of the screen while in your “Camera” app it will bring up a menu that says “Grid” and “HDR.” Slide the “HDR” slider to on and your iPhone will now take 3 photo’s at different exposures and stitch them together for a more properly exposed image. Using this doesn’t always guarantee a better pictures, so try it out and see what works for you.

12.  Tap To Focus

You can tap anywhere on the screen to focus (a blue square will come up on the display). This not only focuses on the area that you touch (which may already seem clear in your display), but also adjusts the exposure and white balance automatically for the main area of your image. This also works for the video camera as well.

13.  Lock It In.  Use AE/AF Lock

Launch the camera app and get your subject in the frame. Tap the object/person you want to focus on and hold your finger on the screen for a few seconds and then release your finger after the blue focus square pulsates. The square will disappear and AE/AF Lock will appear at the bottom of the screen. The times I find this feature most helpful is when taking photos of moving objects like people, cars or animals. Anytime a subject is moving the camera wants to refocus, even if it’s just a head turn. I’ve lost a countless number of shots because of this. Now I just trigger the AE/AF lock and snap away.

14.  Color

Color can be a powerful allie when shooting photos. Shooting a sky with just a red umbrella in the frame or a women with a bright blue dress on in a sea of people wearing black and really make your subject pop. So look for scenarios where one particular color stands out from the rest, you’ll be amazed at how artistic your photo will looks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Handy Tips for taking better travel photos with your iPhone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is entirely possible that New York City was made for photographers.  Any photo you capture could easily say – This is New York.  If you are a keen street photographer, what I’ve just said is absolutely true.  

Strangely, I’ve always found NYC to be difficult to photograph.  Part of my problem is I’m accustomed to wide open spaces of Texas.  In New York everything is way up in the air and compact.  My other issue is I’ve never gone to New York with the intention of just taking photographs.  I’ve had no plan.  And, I’m unsure what interests me the most in the city to capture with my camera.  I’m never without a plan.

More importantly, I haven’t allowed myself enough time to properly photograph New York City.  It’s on my list of things to do.  And it does take time if you want to capture splendid photos.  This is true of anything you want to photograph.  

Instead, I’ve capture random shots with no rhyme or reason.  Most photographs were taken in Midtown which is a cool area of Manhattan.  Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station are all fantastic locations.  If you go out and about around three or four in the morning, there is a good chance you’ll have the city to yourself.  That’s not so good for street photography.

My best suggestion for New York City photography is go with a plan.  Know where you’re going and know what you want to photograph.  As always, be prepared for the unexpected as there are brilliant photos waiting to be taken when you least expect it.

Consider the following tips the next time you take your travel photos of New York City ::

Photography Is Legal Anywhere In Public
That means that if you’re taking a picture of someone or something and someone tells you not to, just remember that you’re within your legal rights. A cop can also not take your card away from you or legally tell you to delete a photo. Just remember: public space = total freedom.

Don’t Stop In The Middle of Swarming New Yorkers to Take a Picture
Not only is this dangerous as you’re throwing off the flow of traffic, but it will also get lots of people annoyed at you for doing this. Lots of tourists tend to just stop walking and make a total about face just to take a picture of something like the Empire State Building.  That’s very annoying.

Do Get Out of The Way
If you just step to the side of the on-flowing traffic to take the photo, you’ll be fine.  You won’t upset New Yorkers.

List of Places For Awesome New York City Photo Opportunities
Chinatown used to be worth it, but now it really isn’t.  Be sure to check out Little Italy on weekend nights, South St Seaport, the Top of Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, the High Line, Fort Tryon Park, the USS Intrepid and the West Side Promenade. Additionally, the World Financial Center and Ground Zero offer great photo opps.

Thoroughly Plan Out Your Trips
During the vacation season, New York City becomes very congested with people.  Chances are that you’re going to use MTA’s services like the subway and buses.  Have a map with you and plan the trip out thoroughly so that you’ll get there quickly, safely and without spending lots of money going back and forth on the lines. New York’s Subways offer lots of photo opportunities as well.  Yes, it’s legal.

Remember Times Square Was Re-Designed For You
In summer of 2009, Times Square got transformed into a “Pedestrian Mall.” Most New Yorkers don’t hang out in Times Square unless they’re taking advantage of the lounge chairs. This area was designed for tourists to come take pictures, spend money, and meet lots of crazy folks like the Naked Cowboy, SpongeBob Squarepants and others.

NYC is A Lot Safer Than You Think
New York City is one of the safest cities in the US because of high security, so you shouldn’t really have to worry about being robbed, etc.  However, do exercise caution and common sense. And trust your instincts.

Do Read Your Manual on How to Use Your Camera
Lots of tourists buy a new camera for the journey and don’t read their manuals.  They also don’t know how to actually use their cameras or even to the fullest potential.  You should really read your manual or carry it around.  Better yet, test out your new camera before you travel.

 

During my first visit to the city, I was caught totally off guard.  A protest had shut down the highway between the airport and the capital city.  The driver carefully navigated the car down a slippery slope to go around the protestors only to met with another large group of protestors right near the hotel.

I was a bit shocked and uncomfortable at first, but once I ventured out on foot I realised there was no harm in my way.

Buenos Aires offers photographers splendid scenes to visit and  photograph.  There is a European feel to some of the architecture complete with a café culture.  You’ll find tango in the streets and in theatres.  Colorful buildings dot grand avenues while modern architecture seems confined along the harbour.  And if you want to visit the departed, Recoleta Cemetery is not to be missed.

One word of caution for any visitor – Be Aware.  Be mindful of the people around you and keep your valuables in a safe place.  My best suggestion is don’t wear flashy jewelry, don’t carry a large bag and be really careful with your expensive iPhone or camera.  Pickpockets and thievery are  unfortunately common in Buenos Aires.

The travel video in this blog post highlights some of the best Buenos Aires has to offer.  Each image was captured with my iPhone as sometimes the mobile device is easier to use than a DSLR.

Travel: it opens up new possibility, refreshes our perspective, and enriches a connection with the world around us. And whether you’re hopping on a plane for a worldwide journey, or exploring your own backyard with a newfound appreciation — you’ll want to take note of these travel photo tips.   The only gear that’s needed?   That trusty iPhone camera of yours.

:: TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP ONE

Focus On Color

Colour is everywhere and if you are drawn to colourful scenes you then are well ahead of me in this lesson.  You can be very creative and add a huge splash of interest to your photos by utilising colour.  

Bright primary colours tend to attract the eye especially when they are contrasted with a complementary hue.   Take advantage of colour when you can.  And remember, when composing a photo try to incorporate more than one element of the composition.  The possibilities are endless.  Your creativity and imagination should run wild.  Good photo composition is not difficult.  It is simply using your own eye to make stunning photographs.

:: TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP TWO

Look For Lines

A poorly composed photograph can leave your viewers unsure where to look.  Their attention might drift aimlessly around the scene in a photo without ever finding a clear focal point.  The viewer doesn’t know where to look.

How can you fix this?  You can use lines to control the way people’s eyes move around a picture Yes, lines.

Lines are going to be present in your work no matter what you do, so it’s all about taking control of them so that they serve the purpose of leading a viewer into your photograph.

The next time you are out with your camera, take a look around you first.  Are there any lines or paths that your eye naturally follows to lead you to the main subject?  If so, you should consider backing up from your subject to include them.  A line can be anything your eye will follow.  

Leading lines can be roads, lines of cropped grass, anything repetitive, buildings going up, a row of flowers, a wall,  – anything that guides the eye to the focus of your photos.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP THREE

Make A List

Just as you might make a list of places you want to see and visit while you’re travelling, make a list of the sights you want to photograph.

I have a comprehensive list of  places to photograph in London.  The list consists of all the interesting London places to photograph for an upcoming book.  I go to a particular place on the list, capture images, review the images and return to the same place, if my images aren’t satisfactory.

As you travel you don’t have the luxury of time like I have in London.  Be sure to spend enough time in a place so you capture the best possible images.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP FOUR

Make weather Your Friend

When you look out your window and see stormy weather of any kind, you might be disappointed.  You might think today is not the day to go out and about with your camera.

On the contrary, stormy weather like rain, fog and snow enables you to capture images of iconic places that haven’t been captured before.  No two storms are alike.  A moody photograph of the Eiffel Tower or the Chrysler Building might be the coolest photos ever taken.

Don’t let bad weather deter you from taking your incredible travel photos.  Instead, let crappy weather lead you onto the streets with a new set of photographic eyes.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP FIVE

LET MOTION AND BLUR BE YOUR FRIENDS

Motion and motion blur can add vitality to your travel photos.  If you’re capturing a photograph of a street scene and a bus or car passes by but they are blurry, that’s cool.

Light streams are fantastic composition elements to include in your travel photos.  In fact, it takes a bit of effort to master light trails from moving cars.  For me, London and motion go hand in hand as the city is so full of energy.

You might also find people walking down the street create a blur.  If your image is crystal clear except for the movement of people, you have a super travel photo.  It’s a keeper.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP SIX 

PAY ATTENTION TO PERSPECTIVE

Most people take their photographs standing upright.  Most people also put their subject directly in the middle of the photo frame.  Avoid both common photo composition mistakes.

Place your subject to the left or right of center and your travel photo will improve drastically.  Also think about getting down on the ground, finding higher ground, turning sideways, jumping in the air and anything else you can do to capture your image from a different perspective.  Unique angles matter.  When you’re trying to capture a photo of a familiar scene that’s been photographed a million times, unique angles matter even more.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP SEVEN

KNOW WHEN TO GO

How many times have you been anxious to photograph a particular scene only to find  hundreds of other people at the very same place?  This has happened to me countless times.

Do a little research to know the busiest times of your destination.  Once you know when crowds are less likely, that’s your time slot.  Go to your site with your camera when fewer people are around and you’ll avoid needless frustration.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIP EIGHT

DON’T BE AFRAID OF SHADOWS

Shadows can also be used for a simple but dramatic effect.  Shadows tend to give a feeling of anticipation and often a cinematic effect, which is a good thing.  Don’t shy away from shadows.  Experiment and learn to use them to your advantage for a strong photo composition.