Tag Archives: Photography

What To Do When Your Travel Buddy Sucks At Taking Photos

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If you have a budding eye for photography, then this post is for you. 

This usually happens.

I’m often the one in my group of traveling comrades that is the one taking all the photos. I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I’d say I have an eye for taking some sick shots of people. All using my expensive camera no less.

Rarely will I ever get someone who is more adept or on par with taking pictures. And when it does happen, man is it such a blessing! Especially when I don’t have to ask. I hate asking for photos of me to be taken. I don’t want to put the burden on others to take five seconds out of their lives to take a photo of stupid me. I’m not worthy.

But sometimes, I have no choice. I MUST get my photo taken by someone else when it absolutely calls for it. Let’s say I want a picture of just myself with the Eiffel Tower in the background. First, I’ll willingly offer or basically tell my travel companions to pose for a shot in front of it. Then right afterward, I’ll ask them if they could get a shot of me doing the same. I could give a crap about their photo. It was all a ploy so I wouldn’t feel as bad for asking of one of me to be taken. I don’t do this often though.

But do you know what grinds my gears more than a crappy photo?

It’s when people ask me for all of my photos at the end of a trip when they haven’t been taking photos at all! I don’t mind sharing, but it’s a two-way street.

If I don’t have a camera savvy friend nearby, then here is how I cope when my travel buddies suck at taking photos:

camera-icon-hi Never Hand Your Camera To An Old Person…

Unless they are rocking one of those gigantic, real fancy DSLR’s around their neck with the zoom lens longer than your arm! Then they obviously know how to work a camera. But in most cases from my experience, many (not all) old folks just aren’t tech savvy like the younger generations. Your photo is probably going to come out of focus or disproportioned.

Take this photo for example…

I took a group shot of my friends in Fiji for this beach scene.

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Easy. Focused. Clean. Closeup. 

Then afterward, I mistakenly asked the elderly (but ever so lovely) woman to the far right to take another photo, except with me in it this time.

The result…

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Ehhh… Too far away. No worries, yet. Maybe I can crop it to get rid of all the unneeded scene?

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Blurry. No Bueno. You get an ‘A’ for effort Karen.

Instead, look for younger people. Couples are a good target because they have experience taking photos of each other all the time.

 camera-icon-hi Take An Example Shot First

What I mean by this is, say I want a shot of me doing something silly somewhere cool. The composition is key, so I need the background to be in a specific position. So first, I’ll take a photo of exactly how I would like the settings, framing, and composition to be and then I will show my friend the photo so they get an idea of how I want it. This usually works out better than not giving them any idea at all.

 camera-icon-hi Set Them Up For Success

Get the camera settings correct before you hand off your camera to someone else. Odds are, they point and click on one automatic setting all the time which is my absolute nightmare. Get the settings straight and make sure they know how to focus on a subject (I’m always baffled when people don’t know how to focus and zoom). It’s pretty straight-forward.

camera-icon-hi Temporarily Switch Cameras

There would be cases where there are two of us taking photos of each other and we won’t have time at the end to exchange photos. So instead, we swap cameras so that way, their camera will be filled with photos of mainly themselves and vice-versa.

camera-icon-hi Don’t Make Them Feel Bad For Taking A Bad Photo…

Unless they are a friend, then I tell them how bad they suck at life. If time permits, I’ll give them a free generic mini-lesson of the basics. Don’t fault kids and elderly folk, or anyone kind enough to take photos for you. Just find someone else.

Take in point, my friend Veronica. She doesn’t get offended by anything I say.

I took a photo of her standing on the edge of this mountain.

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“Alright, Veronica. Can you get one of me in the same way?” I thought that me holding a beer high above the city would be so cool!

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“Veronica, this is shit. You can’t even see the ocean! This is NOT how I showed you.” So she laughed and tried again.

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“Still shit, Veronica. I’m out of focus.”

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“Better!”

All it takes is a little training.

camera-icon-hi Get Them In The Mood

To get people in your travel group in the mood to take photos, you can inspire them. Sometimes, once they see the lengths I go through to get that quality photo and then they see for themselves how awesome the photo is, they will inspire to do the same. It has happened for me on many occasions and it’s also a great method for them to get experience.

camera-icon-hi What About The Ones Who Do Take Lots of Photos On Their Own, But The Photos Are Never Good?

Well, all you can do is hope is they don’t post them on any social media. I suppose you can just untag yourself?

I’m talking about the unflattering ones like this for example…

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I’m a big fan of candid shots, but Jesus I look like a Goomba.

In cases like this where you do have a travel buddy who takes lots of photos albeit hideous ones, try to inspire them by showing them your own amazing shots. I’ve met loads of professional photographers during my trips who put my own photos to shame. All it did was motivate me to become better at the game.

camera-icon-hi Do It Yourself

Sometimes when there is no one around or when you just don’t trust your travel partner’s photography skills or you also want them in the picture, then find ways to do it yourself. Most cameras have timer modes on them. Some cameras even have features where you can connect your phone to a DSLR as a remote option.

Take here for example…

There was no one around to claim witness to Hamish and I conquering Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. Of course, we both needed to be in the photo. So, I set my camera on a safe patch of snow and connected my iPhone to my Canon wirelessly. And so, I was able to control how the photo looked and was able to shoot with my phone as a remote. You can see the phone in my right hand if you take a closer look.

If you want things done right, then you have to do it yourself.


 

And there you have it! My advice on how to manage when your travel buddies suck at taking photos. 🙂

If anyone has any input or other pieces of useful tips, please share with me!


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World of the Ice Giants

Here is what I know about Austria: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vienna sausages. Also, there’s some bizarre tradition they have where people dress like monsters and beat up other people. This is all I know. The most important fact about Austria though, is that my friend Kevin lives there. I met him right before the jungle party in Koh Tao, Thailand last summer. We’ve kept in touch often and both decided that I will come down to stay with him for several days so he could show me his country. Out of all the European countries I’ve been to so far, my prior knowledge of Austria was the most lacking, so my expectations were bare. I took a Meinfernbus, two hours south of Germany to a city in Austria called Salzburg. There Kevin and his buddy Alex were waiting for me.

Just like before, Kevin spoke like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was pretty amusing to me and he went along with it. “Put the cookie down!” “Get to the chopper!” Since Thailand, Kevin has been doing a lot of working and a lot of music festival partying based on all the photos he’s been showing me on Whatsapp the past few months. His friend Alex just came back about a month ago from a solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. He was actually on the islands too when I met Kevin last year, but he was sick in the hospital the whole time I was around. Kevin and Alex decided we should all have a home cooked meal and so we stopped at a super market, grabbed some grub, and went back to Kevin’s house where they prepared the feast.

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Kevin had tons of cool things planned for my visit and I was pretty pumped and game for anything! There is a mountain called Hochkogel Mountain, which is part of the Alps, and inside at the top is the largest ice cave discovered on Earth! The cave is called Eisreisenwelt and it spans 42km deep! That’s humoungous! The drive to the mountain was about an hour or so. I don’t exactly remember because I was passed out most of the drive. But once we made it, we had two options to get to the cave: we could take the cable car up, followed by a short hike or we could hike all the way to the top. Kevin and I opted for the long haul and were the only ones to do so for this day. On our way past the starting point, a lady told us we were wearing the wrong shoes for the hike, as it’s a little difficult. Kevin and I both had on sneakers which were perfect for us, but the woman recommended hiking boots. We said we’re fine and continued on anyways. The fact that everyone else took the cable car up made the hike up the mountain more enjoyable. Kevin and I were the only ones around and the sights around constantly left me in complete awe.

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The path up the mountain was indeed slippery. There were unsteady pebbles of rocks laid across the trail and one false step meant an undesirable fate. The trail zig-zagged up the base of the slope, piled with stones, pebbles, and rocks of all sorts of shapes and sizes. At one point I decided to take a short-cut and instead of following the trail, decided to climb straight up which would shave plenty of time. With me deciding to take a shortcut usually turns out to be a really great idea or a really bad one. This was a bad one. Kevin is game for anything also so I convinced him how much easier and more fun it would be to climb straight up instead of following the linear path. Upon beginning, I knew in my head that maybe this wasn’t a good idea, as the rocks I grabbed onto were loose and the bushes and grasses were wet and slippery. If I fell, it meant I would fall and slide down the mountain along with a bunch of stones. I made it up a few meters while Kevin waited to see if I could set a path for him. As he was busy fumbling with his GoPro, I accidentally dislodged a stone the size of my head and it came rolling down past me…straight towards Kevin!

“Kevin! Kevin! Watch out!!” I shouted in a panic.

He looked up and just as he did, he quickly dodged his head as the stone tumbled and flew past his shoulder. We both had an “Oh my God!” look on our faces. I almost just killed Kevin! With that, I proceeded up back to the nearest trail and he wisely decided not to climb up and proceeded along the trail and met me where I stood. My bad Kevin!

After that brief rush of adrenaline, we took it easy; no more daring stunts. We progressed up the mountain and every turn we made led us to another spectacular view of Austria…and it was beautiful.

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We stopped a lot to rest and take pictures. Kevin with his GoPro and me with my Nikon. A couple of hours in, we finally made it to the point where the cable car would drop off patrons, but we still had a 20 minute hike ahead. We could see the entrance of the cave from where we were.

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I wish I could explore the cave freely. No…not here, this was a guided tour. I dread those words: guided tour. There was a group of about thirty of us waiting at the top for the next phase of the tour to begin. While everyone began to dress up in their winter coats, hats and gloves, Kevin and I were standing there in shorts and t-shirts. Just how cold is this ice cave? The tour guide announced it was zero degrees celsius inside. We had to make do! We’ll be okay…right? I don’t operate well in cold weather.

Upon entering the cave we were blasted with frigid winds! It felt like someone placed a jet turbine in front of Antarctica and set it on full throttle. It was cold! Fortunately the winds only lasted for a few seconds and the inside of the cave was calm…and icy!

“No photography allowed,” said the tour guide.

But why? This isn’t a church or museum. It’s completely natural here. I couldn’t think of a single good reason why we weren’t allowed to take pictures…so I took some anyway! Discreetly of course. We didn’t climb all the way up here for nothing!

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The cave is 42km long but we only went into the beginnings of the cave. It started with a steep climb up an iced out wall via a staircase. The stairs led us to a giant chunk of ice in the shape of a wooly mammoth. It wasn’t carved that way, it was completely natural and it really did look like a mammoth!

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The cave is comprised of several chambers, some with filled with more ice than others. Each chamber of the cave had a chunk of ice that resembled some kind of giant monster. Use your imagination. Over years, the giant chunks change and deform as water from the outside slowly drips onto the ice. In ordinary caves, you’ll find stalagmites and stalactites and here you would find the same except made completely out of ice and frozen mineral sediments.

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The cave itself was cold but bearable. If you ever go here in shorts, you’ll live. The tour lasted for about an hour before we exited back to the chilly winds at the entrance.

For being the largest ice cave on the planet, I decided it’s worthy of being added onto my ATLAS.

ATLAS UPDATED!

No, you’re not allowed to take photos for whatever unknown reasons, but if you have the chance to visit, go ahead and take some! Just turn the flash off and do it when the guide isn’t paying attention. You’re not hurting anyone. Also, if you’re in the mood for a dose of some of the most amazing scenery ever, hike up the mountain! It’s an exercise but the photos will show for it.

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Kevin and I decided to also hike back down the mountain and stopped at certain points we missed along the way. The late evening was approaching and the sun beamed its last rays of daylight through the gaps of clouds and mountain peaks. I’d say the hike was the cake and the ice cave were just the sprinkles added to an already delicious dessert.

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But wait!

Kevin had more to show me. There is an entirely different world above the clouds. And we’re going there next!

The Snowdown Showdown!

The stage was set. It was me versus Whistler and Blackcomb, two side-by-side mountains that stand tall north of Vancouver in the Canadian ski resort town of Whistler.

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Whistler, along with Blackcomb, is one of the most popular mountains in North America for skiing and snowboarding during the winter. I’ve never been skiing, but I dabbled with snowboarding a couple of times. The most recent was last October in Dubai. Yup, Dubai of all places. They have a great indoor snow slope you should check out if you are ever in the area. It was there that I learned how to handle my own and it was now time to put my rookie abilities to the ultimate test on Whistler Blackcomb!

Lana, Katie, and I traveled about an hour and a half north to Whistler where we booked ourselves in a lodge. Whistler is a small, snowy town filled with ski resorts, restaurants, small shops, and lot’s of places to wind down and relax after a long day of snowboarding. We went during President’s Day weekend, which meant the town was packed with American tourists!

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Even so, this place was great! I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. I could never get enough of the snow-capped backdrops and all those people with their custom snow gear, I just assumed they were all pros and I was the only novice in the neighborhood. The new kid in town. Both Lana and Katie had their own equipment already, but I had to rent mine from a rental shop nearby. A jacket, goggles, pants, boots, helmet, and my fitted snowboard which became my trusty companion for the next two days.

Lana and Katie all geared to go!
Lana and Katie all geared to go!

We stood in a long line that led to a ski lift that took us up most of the way of the mountain. Not to the very top, I wasn’t ready for that yet, but a little more than midway up the slope. I was ready for the challenge. Whistler Mountain was day one!

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I felt so small in this vast mountain range in all its snowy glory. All the sky scraping pine trees, the cool crisp air, and all that powder; it was picturesque. It was all the inspiration I needed to shred this beast as I attempted my way down the mountain in one piece. I had Lana and Katie showing me up, both skilled as they should be, they are Canadian after all. It’s a proven fact that Canada is a country proficient in winter sports. My two northern friends were my only allies on this mountain and were well aware of my lack of snowboarding experience. Even so, I surprised them and myself when I was able to turn and burn down the easier areas of the slopes with relative ease.

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That’s not to say that I didn’t fall, because I did. I fell, a lot. Right on my face.

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No pain, no glory. I still had a smile on my face. At certain points, there were groups of little kids with a teacher learning how to ski. Maybe I should join these kids to get some pointers? Whenever I saw groups of little kids on the mountain, I made it a point to direct myself waaay away from them and slow down or otherwise I’d collide right into them! How horrible would that have been?

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Shuffle Serena, shuffle!

We went up and down Whistler mountain for a few hours before we called it a day and headed back to our lodge. Later that evening, we walked around the resort and found that Whistler transformed into something like a Christmas town. It felt pretty festive!

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Near the base of the two mountains, they held a special event where professional boarders flipped through a ring of fire as fireworks shot out nearby. I will probably never reach that level of excellence on a board, but it was still amazing to see!

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The next day, we decided to tackle Blackcomb mountain. To me, it was more of the same, and that was a good thing. I felt a little more confident after my trials and errors the previous day, so we went higher up the mountain to the more treacherous areas. The snow was constant and we were bound in a flurry of white! It was so sweet!

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There was a stretch on Blackcomb mountain called Seventh Heaven which was very tricky for me.  The more room I have to move, the better for me. Seventh Heaven was a narrow path with a cliff that fell straight down on one side. Turning on my heels is fine but trying to turn on my toes is a whole other story.  The path was so narrow, that I was forced to turn on my toes or other wise I’d risk turning right off the cliff! The other boarders going by went so fast, that it made me nervous that I’d get shoved off into Blackcombs wintry doom, but somehow I eventually made it through into much wider passages. I really have to practice turning on my toes sometime.

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As the hours went by, my board and I were gradually becoming one entity. I was learning more and more how to control it as it became custom to my foot rhythms and tendency to fall. But even when I did wipe-out, it gave me the opportunity to sometimes just sit there in the snow and take in all of the fantastic scenery surrounding me.

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Later on, we took the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola from Blackcomb mountain back to Whistler mountain. It was here that we went as high as we felt confident and decided to board all the way down the mountain with no stops in between. It took about 30 minutes or so to get all the way down to the bottom and I made it in one piece but man was my entire body sore as all heck! My neck, my back, my poor legs and ankles. Oh and my wrists! My wrists hurt especially from the 1289301 times I had to lift myself up from the snow. I fell so much! But I got right back up each time. Well maybe not right back every time. Sometimes I just laid there flat on my back from exhaustion. It was great. I have progressed significantly since the day before and was able to keep up with Katie and Lana a majority of the time. Thanks for sticking together guys!

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Once we all made it to the bottom, I treated myself to one of these bad boys…

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What’s a beaver tail? It’s the Canadian version of an elephant ear, cleverly disguised as a beaver’s tail. I start to drool at the sounds of sugary sweets and elephant ears…er…beaver tails always do the trick. I’d rank it up there with ice cream and cinnabons for sure!

Coming up to Whistler was the pinnacle of my stay in British Columbia and I can’t thank both Lana and Katie enough for their tremendous northernIMG_0459 hospitality and fun going spirits. Snowboarding here was the best and I’d love to come back again one day, but not before I get my toe-turning down. I’ll be the one showing you guys up on our next bout! Mark my words! Until we meet again my rafiki’s (friends), Kwa Heri (goodbye) and thanks for everything!