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5 nature photos to inspire your next trip

Geological rocks of Meteora

What captures your attention and provides the optimal sensory elements that help shape and define your greatest trip memories?  Is it the food, the architecture, the local art and culture, music and nightlife, or the people you meet? And, including some or all of the above, are you also besotted with dramatic landscapes and the opportunity to leave with beautiful nature photos destined to be framed as your next prized pieces of wall art?

My sister CJ (and best travel buddy) will be the first to tell you “impressive man-made structures have their place, and they’re several iconic landmarks scattered all over the world matching that description.” But for her, the pièces de résistance, the vacation takeaway masterpieces so to speak, always lie in nature.

We’ve been to more than a dozen countries together and she inevitably comes back with images of landscapes, seascapes, clouds, plants and animals. She takes other pictures too, of course, but her beloved nature photos far outnumber anything else.

So for this post, I asked her to help us see the world through her Samsung Galaxy 6 lens and describe what drew her eyes to each scene.

Jamaica

Jamaican countryside

Nestled in the hills of St. Elizabeth there is freedom.  Freedom from the trappings of commercialization and bustling streets that create a cacophony of intrusive noises.  This lone home, enveloped by lush vegetation and surrounded by lung-friendly, pollution-free air, sits atop a hill like a beacon.  Untouched land, friendly people, and rich culture showcased Jamaica at its finest.

South Africa

insects in south africa

Cape Town is steeped in history and known for its popular V&A Waterfront as well as prominent landmarks, but one of my favorite places to visit, other than my safari and Robben Island tours, was Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.  Found on the eastern side of the famous Table Mountain, it is home to several spectacular species of flora and fauna and the immaculately groomed grounds are presided over by a bust of Nelson Mandela, which is near the entrance.

The aromatic and abundant plant life is a potent elixir for the cutest insects. This little fellow was oblivious to all the tourists milling around as he hung out all by his adobrable and lonesome self.  Clearly, there was sonly one thing on his mind…”Gotta get the pollen! Gotta get the pollen!”

Greece

Meteora rock cliff

Taking a bus tour can often be mundane and long, but when that trip is transporting you from Athens through the northern highlands to Meteora, there are beautiful natural landscapes and geological sites to behold.  The feeling of catching your first glimpse of the giant monolithic rocks on which several monasteries were built is not something that’s easily described. It is an emotion best experienced in person.

Mexico

Paradise Beach_Tulum Mexico

Tulum, Tulum, Tulum. What’s not to love about Tulum?  Found in the Quintana Roo region of Mexico, the area is home to the ruins of the Mayan walled city, and it once served as a port for Coba.  Today it is a treasured UNESCO Heritage Site. 

I’ve been around beaches all my life, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight of this gorgeous shoreline bordered on either side by turquoise waters and craggy rocks. Not only do you get to stroll through the impressive ruins, you can kick off your shoes and dip your toes in the soft, squishy sand if you are not short on time,

Southwest Florida

PineIsland Sound_Florida

Famous for its shell-lined beaches, Southwest Florida is also known for absolutely amazing sunsets.  No two light shows are ever alike because they were ‘painted’ by the greatest artist ever known. He is Elohim.  It was a perfect evening when the lone bird took flight and a few, friendly dolphins frolicked in the ocean below.    

Those are some of my sister’s top picks. Do you have any tips on other cool spots for beautiful nature photos that you’d like to share? Please drop their names in the comment section below.

5 Nature Photos to inspire your next trip

Boy, BYE! 9 clever photography tips to make your post breakup life easier

Photography tips ot make your post break up life easier

When a relationship ends, the breakup can hit you in one of two ways. You either feel relief for finally having the courage to say goodbye to a cheating, deceitful or abusive ex, or your emotions shatter into a million pieces after realizing that your previously swell “plus one” flame has fizzled from hero to zero in one irregular heartbeat.

So, now that your romantic journey is over and you’ve landed in Splitsville, USA, what do you do? Lock yourself in your house for a while and cry your eyeballs out, of course! Or you play Adele, Sam Smith and Taylor Swift style breakup songs on 24-hour rotation while you gorge on indulgent foods and search for separation advice on Reddit. But after a while, the pity party must end. To heal a broken heart, get over a bad breakup, and move on with your life, you’ve got to create an ex-free environment.

Photography tips to help you get past a breakup

Usual breakup protocol includes blocking calls or changing your number, deleting old text messages, ghosting mutual friends for a while, and getting rid of pictures with your ex. But what if I told you there are ways to avoid having to go on an immediate Facebook and Instagram purge, especially when it relates to the matter of epic vacation photos? I don’t know about you, but it’s incredibly hard for me to destroy evidence of my time in a sweet location, and it’s even more painful when it’s a destination I’d been dreaming of visiting for a long time.

That’s why I’ve studied the techniques of some image-savvy social media accounts that will keep our ‘Gram and Facebook feeds intact.  Even better, these photography tips are guaranteed to elevate our social media game while ensuring that looking at old photos will be a little easier to handle in the event of a post vacation breakup.

Now, enough yapping from me. Check out these rad photo-taking tips and try them out on your next trip!

1. Use the angle and location of natural light to your advantage. Shoot into the sun, and play around with the lens flare for special effects.

In this example, you can’t really see the guy’s face, can you? That’s the idea.

2. Show the back of your heads.

This style places greater emphasis on the destination or details in the background than the person who’s sharing the scene with you.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8ZQd9UAa82/

3. Set up a unique perspective shot, preferably one that positions the other person far, far away. 

In this fun image, one half of the dynamic duo isn’t very visible and looks more like a bite-sized snack.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaGxw73DSaf/

4. Only show parts of your torso in the frame.

This could be two sets of feet hanging over the edge of a boat or cliff, or limbs intertwined in a hammock on the beach.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BirSD7ZnowQ/

Murad and Nataly Osmann have made a name for themselves by holding hands in their shots. Take a page out of their #followmeto playbook, and capture images of yourself holding bae’s hand in front of stunning scenery or notable landmarks.

5. Pose in profile, and go for maximum landscape impact with a long-range ‘tripod selfie’, or ask someone (who looks trustworthy) to take your picture from a distance.

The key is to ensure facial features are not very distinguishable..

6. Up the wow factor by getting playful at sunset – in silhouette!

7. Suit up with protective gear and go deep. 

As you can see, diving gear does a great job of masking identities when underwater.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtWCtmjlXyE/

8. Use a direct overhead angle (maybe even a drone) to get a bird’s eye view of your desired scene.

Additional tip: Accessories like hats help with anonymity.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvrJCJyg33l/

9.  Play the ‘Instagram Boo’ card and have him/her take lit pictures of you solo! Then to be fair, extend the favor too.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtDnLjUFgin/

Do you have any other photography tips that have worked for you that I missed? Please share them in the comments.

My absolute favorite travel gear

From time to time, people ask me what travel products I use on my trips, so for easy reference, I compiled a shortlist of my go-to items and decided to share them here.

Luggage

I know there are fancier designs and much trendier luggage brands available, but I’ve had my Nautica Open Seas set for at least 8 years, and I love it because none of the 5 pieces has failed me yet! The carry-on, which gets the most use, is light and compact, and holds a ton of stuff (if you use good packing hacks). Another plus is the groovy navy & yellow color combo on the exterior that makes your bag super easy to spot if you ever have to wait at the carousel.

The duffle bag is also a cool bonus, because you can break it down and place it inside your carry-on to use as an extra piece for souvenirs on the return trip. At home, I’ve also used it as a gym bag on a few occasions.

Camera

If you follow me on Instagram, it’s pretty obvious I get more than a little snap happy on vacation. But since I’m just an eager amateur and not a professional, I’ve still got A LOT to learn about photo-taking techniques. Knowing when to switch aperture speeds, change lenses, adjust depth of field to sharpen focus or chase the right lighting to avoid overexposure sounds overwhelming to me. So, listen up. If you catch me in dem tourist streets, don’t expect to see me with a DSLR or mirrorless camera strapped over my shoulder – just yet.  

I guess I should be embarrassed to admit this out loud, but here it comes. I’m still using a compact point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot SX530 HS to frame my shots and learn my best angles!  Yes, you can go ahead and GASP. My three-year-old baby has a 50x zoom lens that shoots images at a 16-megapixel resolution and video at 1080p. It also has integrated Wi-Fi with NFC (Near Field Communication), which allows me to transfer photos to my cell phone with an app.

Tripod

I did a solo trip to Peru for my birthday in 2018, and after years of dreaming about walking through the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, I didn’t want to take the chance of not capturing great shots to preserve the visual memories of my time there. So, what did your girl do? She went out and bought a Sunpak TravelLite Pro Reverse Folding 63′ Tripod (with red accents because she’s extra) and taught herself how to use it!

The irony of the situation though, is that tripods are not allowed at the site. I think they’re considered a possible hazard because of the uneven terrain and huge crowds. But it’s all about tenacity and creativity, right? I converted my tour guide into an able art director and wardrobe assistant for my personal Mapi photo shoot. That’s the name locals call their Wonder of the World.

Smartphone

Other than being extremely useful for communicating with folks back home, figuring out directions in unfamiliar territory, and having access to the internet at your finger tips, my smartphone is a must-have on my trips because it’s a handy camera too.

iPhone lovers, I’m an unapologetic Android devotee, and at the moment, a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is where it’s at in my book. First of all, the 128 GB in-built storage and up to 512 GB of expandable space through a MicroSD is just bananas. What’s more, the optical lens has a 2x zoom and it’s also well-documented that the pixel detail and low-light photography capabilities are far superior.

The signature S Pen isn’t shabby either! You can use it to control more than seven devices at one time within a 30-feet radius. Think YouTube, Snapchat, Spotify music and your camera app, among others. Check out this IG post to see what I mean.

Bonus item (a gimbal)

This Zhiyun Smooth-Q is brand new to me, and is going to be my new best friend on all my expeditions. It’s a hand-held stabilizer that allows you to use your phone to record non-shaky video. It comes with an inbuilt battery that runs for up to 12 hours and has a standard tripod mount at the bottom. Yaaass! I’m about to say a permanent BYE BYE to wobbly footage. Now, if you don’t have a gimbal already, maybe you can think about getting one, too!

In case you’re wondering, none of the items mentioned in this post is sponsored. I actually use these brands and have been doing so on my own dime for a while – years, in some cases. However, the Amazon product links are affiliated. That means if you click on the product, review it, and then decide to buy something, I have the potential to earn a small (as in tiny) commission from qualifying purchases.