Wanderlust Blog

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky to have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock-full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world.

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Tips for Better Travel Photos

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

 

It wasn’t that long ago that many travel photos were taken, developed and then dumped into boxes, rarely to be seen again. These days, things aren’t so different except that now the photos get dumped onto external hard drives.

In most collections of vacation and travel photos, a precious few of the very best shots are often spared this fate – those photos that are somehow more enduring or more interesting, or that best capture the spirit and sensation of the trip. What is it that keeps these photos from the dustbin of our traveling history? Often they are simply better photographs. That is, the “keeper” photo isn’t of a favorite person, place or activity – it is better composed, better lit and thus simply more visually interesting than the run-of-the-mill vacation snapshot.

Following is a collection of low- and no-tech tips to help you improve your photography skills for your next trip.

Think “people, places, things.” 3843904037_10b131c0eb_b
This old definition of the use of a noun is a handy guide to a great vacation photo: the best travel photos will often be about all three of these. To illustrate, let’s say you want to take a photo of the Tower of London on a rainy day. If you pull up your photo and snap the Tower in the gray light, you could get a decent photo. But if you put your friends in the photo with the Tower glimpsed over their shoulders (the place of interest), visible just under the rim of an umbrella (a very specific thing that evokes the conditions), you have a great shot.

Get closer. 14279953926_97bcbb87a6_h
As Robert Capa famously said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Taken literally, the closer you get to your subject, the more detail and interest you can capture.

There are a couple of ways to do this, both equally valid and effective. One is to use the telephoto features found on most cameras to zoom in on your subject. Before anyone cries cop-out, this can be a very effective photographic technique, and has resulted in countless compelling images in this age of big lenses.

The other is simply to walk closer to your subject. Not everyone is comfortable doing this, but the person viewing the photo will appreciate it; despite how close a zoom lens makes things appear, when viewing a photo the human eye can still sense the distance, and appreciates when an image has truly been taken up close.

Be in the thick of it.
A less literal read of Capa’s statement, and probably the one closer to his intent, suggests that Capa likes photos in which the photographer him- or herself seems to be part of what is going on, and not standing apart from the action. Capa’s solution to get more intimate, engaged photos is simply to be more intimately involved in the photo yourself.

5728297735_327ffa8345_b (1)Know where the sun is.
The easiest way to flatter your subject is to put it in the best light. If you want your subjects’ faces to shine, turn them so the sun is shining on their faces. If you want your photo of your cruise ship to look like the brochures, take the photo on the sunny side of the ship. Alternately, if you want to catch the glistening of light on the ocean, take the photo when the sun is low enough to bounce off the waves.

Consider the time of day.15635520540_e3ceb753aa_k
This is a fairly simple story – there’s no time like sunrise or sunset to take compelling, interesting and even stunning travel photos. Sunrise in particular can produce very striking images, in part because most people are not awake at the crack of dawn, and so can still be surprised by a sunrise photo.

Turn the camera on its side.
In some situations, turning the camera on its side to take a vertical shot is just not good composition, it is almost essential. But taking vertical shots also has an added benefit: it will enhance the interest of your overall photo collection considerably, adding geometrical variety as folks flip through your vacation slideshow.

5728340461_b4ae53db20_bFill the frame.
The interesting parts of the scene should start at the left edge of the viewfinder and end at the right edge. That is, the subject should absolutely fill the frame such that the edges of the photo will include as little superfluous imagery and information as possible.

I find this tactic offers a couple of distinct advantages. First, the intended subject of your photo is absolutely clear to anyone who sees the photo. And second, the photo becomes a thing apart from how we usually see the world, which is more or less in 180-degree panorama thanks to our peripheral vision. A photograph can isolate and amplify our experience, which turns out to be one of the attractions of travel itself, as well.

9127445666_7df279c0a8_bDivide the scene into threes.
If you put something right in the middle of the frame, the photo is about that thing. Another great tactic for creating visual interest in a somewhat routine shot is to frame the shot such that your subject is not in the dead middle of the photo, but is placed off-center in the frame. An easy way to think about this is mentally to divide the frame into three sections (left, center and right), and put the main subject of the photo either entirely within the left or right section, or perhaps right on the line dividing two sections.

How to choose on which side to put the subject? This is easy – put it on the side that has the least background interest in the overall frame. This way, the viewer can be tricked into thinking you took a photo of both the subject and the background activities, with equal emphasis on both.

You can also divide the photo vertically into threes as well so that you have a grid of nine squares total to work with.

When taking photos of traveling companions, it is easy to prop them up in front of something interesting and then take the picture. If you go to some effort to get the attraction behind them, but cut off the top of someone’s head, or include a sloppy untucked shirt, or cut the photo off at someone’s socks, you have a good photo of the sight and a terrible photo of your friends. In this case, frame them first and then worry about the background.

Move.14323278473_eb31453a1b_b
I find that very often a decent photo could have been a great photo if I had just moved a little bit, whether to reframe the photo slightly, or to put something interesting into the background. This can involve moving a few steps forward or back, shifting to one side or the other, or crouching down. As a photographer, you have much more control over what you are doing and where you are standing than you do over the subject matter; if you just stand lead-footed in one spot, your photos will reflect this.

Zoom in and out until you like what you see.
If your camera has a zoom feature, and most do these days, you can help yourself to “move” by zooming in and out on your subject. I find that when you do this, at the point the scene becomes most interesting, your eye will notice it – that is, you’ll just like it more intuitively. That’s when you take the shot.

4588278443_6a3ee4f058_bPay the most attention to the edges and corners.
A great photo is as often defined by what is left in as by what is left out. You have considerable control here, and while it is normal human behavior to look directly and in a concentrated way at the things that interest us most, the camera behaves otherwise.

Very often you can take a photo that seems like it might turn out extremely well, but when you see the print of a photo, your friend is a speck in the middle of a nondescript background. Take all that stuff out, and you have a great photo.

In the same way, if you zoom in very closely on someone’s face, and cut out the monkey standing on her head, you missed the shot.

4508752325_da920c1ddf_bAt familiar sites, emphasize something other than the subject.
If you are photographing the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Mount Rushmore or any other frequently photographed site, you would often do better to buy a nice calendar than take yet another point-and-shoot photo that will just take up space on your hard drive until it crashes.

But if you make it a photo about something else – your companion’s goofy hat with the Eiffel Tower in the background, or a bobby in front of the Houses of Parliament, or a motorcycle gang parked in front of Mount Rushmore – then you have a great photo.

Look, then think, before you shoot.
Before taking a photo, if you just take a quick look at your surroundings, and give yourself a second to think about anything interesting that might be happening, you will get a much higher percentage of interesting photos than if you simply pull your camera to your eye and snap without planning what you want to capture.

14609595601_94969e17a1_kTry to take photos where you didn’t “have to be there.”
If you want to take a great photo and not merely a snapshot of your traveling companions in a certain location, think about how a complete stranger would react to seeing your picture. Photos that are thereby intrinsically interesting will enhance and retain their interest to you as well.

Use your sense of humor.
Do not underestimate the value of capturing or expressing a little humor when taking travel photos. Travel is usually as much about how we felt and thought while traveling, not just where we went, and photos that capture some humor often bring back the strongest memories and sensations as time goes by.

 

Edited from article in Independent Traveler

Southernisms

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

by Michele

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We just got home from our incredible Southern Charm tour where we spent time in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and it was fabulous!  We learned so much about the history and culture of the South and had the perfect weather for exploring new cities. From a plantation tour to a horse drawn carriage to rocking chairs on the front porch, this trip was simply charming.

We learned some new phrases along the way – Southernism, if you will – and we thought that they were too fun to keep to ourselves.  I dare you to use these in your every day conversations!

“I’m finer than frog hair split four ways.”
Southerners mostly use this phrase to answer, “How are you?” Even those below the Mason-Dixon know frogs don’t have hair, and the irony means to highlight just how dandy you feel.

“He could eat corn through a picket fence.”
This describes someone with an unfortunate set of buck teeth. They tend to stick up and outward, like a horse’s teeth. Imagine a horse eating a carrot, and you’ll get the picture.

“It came a Gully Washer”
Translation: A short, heavy rain, also known as a turtle floater, a duck drowner or a toad strangler or a downpour.

“He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.”
On farms (not just in the South) roosters usually crow when the sun rises. Their vociferous habit wakes up the house, signaling time to work.
An extremely cocky rooster might think the sun rises simply because he crows. Similarly, an extremely cocky man might think the same when he speaks — and also that everyone should listen to him.

 “Bless Your Heart”
Translation: If you’ve heard this, especially from a Southern woman, she doesn’t mean it.  In reality, the phrase has little to do with religion and more to do with a passive-aggressive way to call you an idiot. Depending on your inflection, saying “bless your heart” can sting worse than any insult.

“Now don’t come to me and be dumber than a box of rocks.”
Translation: This is self-explanatory.  And if you don’t get it, you might just be dumber than a box of rocks.

“If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”
Translation: “You’d better do what I want or I won’t be happy and if I’m not happy then you’re not gonna be happy either.  I’ll make sure of it.

“Gracious plenty”
Translation: More than enough.  As in “we’ve got gracious plenty of it”

“Forty-leven”
Translation: Innumerable.  As in “She had forty-leven children”

Introducing Noah

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Noah
Noah has not seen all of the world, but definitely plans to try!

At the ripe old age of 6, Noah’s love for travel was noticed when his grandmother took him on a trip from his hometown of Detroit to Los Angeles. “I love meeting new people. With each new person I get to hear a story about a different part of the world”.

Graduating from Baldwin-Wallace College with a degree in Exercise Physiology and Biology and a minor in enjoying life to the fullest, Noah quickly realized that he could use his education anywhere in the world. So after a surprise phone call with an offer to play semi professional soccer in Germany, he decided without hesitation that he couldn’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Now living in Berlin, he is closer to some of the most amazing things in the world; the history and architecture of Warsaw, the beer in the south of Germany, the pasta of Italy and the nude beaches in France!

Noah’s love for the world, passion for bringing people together, positive attitude and fun demeanor make him the perfect addition to the Amazing Journeys family and we are excited to have him as part of our crew. Noah will be staffing this summer’s Mediterranean cruise and looks forward to meeting the group in Europe!

For more information on our cruise to the Mediterranean this summer, click here!

 

 

15 Life Lessons I Learned While on Safari in Africa

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Lessons by Malori – Photos by Barry

15.  No swimming in the pool after dark.  That’s when the hippos swim.

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14.  Never jump in the water with two feet.  You never know what may be lurking underneath.

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13.  You don’t have to run fast.  Just faster than the slowest one in the herd.

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12.  Don’t walk around with a target on your ass.

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11.  It’s nice to see the world from a giraffe’s perspective…unless you are in a lightning storm and you become the lightening rod.

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10.  Sometimes a little rain must fall to make tomorrow that much more beautiful.

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9.  Never get between a mama and her baby.

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8.  The male lion will depend on the female to get him food, unless she is not around to get it for him…then he will do it himself.

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7.  Just as every zebra has its own unique stripes, we are all beautiful in our own way.

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6.  Some of us do our best work at night.

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5.  It’s never a good idea to stray from the pack.

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4.  Hakuna Matata – it means no worries (for the rest of your days).

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3.  It’s good to be the king.

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2.  Sometimes you’re the diner, sometimes you’re the dinner.

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1.  When the Zulu Tribal Chief puts his arms tightly around you and whispers in your ear, “I want to take you as my own,” it’s time to leave the country!

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A Taste of Cuba

Monday, March 16th, 2015

by Malori

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It’s been a week since returning from our Amazing Journeys people-to-people mission to Cuba.  We saw and did so much in just a weeks time, it’s hard to put it all down in words.  Traveling to Cuba is like heading back to the late 1950’s or earlier.  The cars, the hotels, the ideas, billboards of Castro with anti-American posts, it’s hard to believe only 90 miles away is the US where we are free to believe what we want and free to do just about anything we want.  We can get our hands on any kind of goods and services.  The people of Cuba cannot.  For example, for the average citizen, it is illegal for them to have an email address.  Think about that for a moment.  Our guide had only been on the internet four times in his life!  Imagine!  He has seen only four movies, and up until very recently, was not able to step foot into a hotel where foreigners stay. For a country with 11 million people, there are only 750,000 cars and half of those belong to the government.  To purchase a car can cost from $100,000 to $250,000 USD.  The things we take for granted, like a refrigerator, can cost upwards of $5,000 and it is the type and style we used in the 60’s.

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Rationing is still the method used for food distribution.  Eggs are limited to 10 per month.  After that, you need to find it on the black market.  Milk is cut off after a child turns seven years old.  Flour, butter, bread… it’s all rationed.

We got to visit with the Jewish Community and were happy to see that with the help of the JDC and those who contribute to it, the Jewish community, while shrinking to a fraction of the size it was, is a robust community.  Those from the “outside” world have seen to it that there are clothes to wear, medicine to be had and Judaica to hold services for Shabbat and holidays.  The teens are even given the opportunity to go on a Birthright trip to see Israel and develop a strong connection to the country and her people.

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Visiting Cuba is like peeling back the layers of an onion.  We believed it to be a certain way, because that’s what we were taught.  Fidel Castro, Bay of Pigs, Communism.  But what we found is a people who cannot wait to get out and get with modern society.  It’s going to take a lot of time and money to bring Cuba back to her glory days of the 1950’s when time stood still.  Now that the US has lightened restrictions, more people are able to visit (currently there are 500,000 US citizens per year visiting Cuba, with 80% of those being Cuban born American’s, coming back to visit with family).  Next month, the American Embassy will re-open when John Kerry brings the American flag back to Cuba.

The people of Cuba are excited to see what will come of this new beginning.  It brings hope to a country that had, for so many years, none.

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