Jobs with Travel Benefits: Sport Marketing

It’s been a while since I posted a Jobs with Travel Benefits feature, so in order to keep inspiring people about career choices that can open the door to travel, I sought out one of the busiest people I know and asked her to answer a few questions. Meet Carole Beckford, a published author and multi-faceted woman who has worked for many years in an industry primarily dominated by men. She’s become such a go-to source, I am convinced she knows almost as much, or more, about every type of sport invented than what would be considered humanly possible. Carole Beckford

Carole, you’re an established media and communications professional who has worked in various industries, and you’ve met a lot of important people and accomplished many things in your impressive career. If you could sum up your biggest achievement in one sentence, what would that be?

I was happy to work as a publicist with one of the greatest athletes in the world – Usain Bolt. The fact that he is JAMAICAN made that experience even better. Carole Beckford and Usain Bolt

Please tell my readers what you do now. I know you’re a master at multi-tasking, so fill us in on any side ventures you have going on too.

I am now head of marketing and communications for Cricket West Indies. The role gives me an opportunity to shape the way people view West Indies Cricket, and more importantly, help the players maximize their efforts using media as a tool. I also lecture in Sports Journalism and Marketing online (when I have the time), and I take online courses as often as I can to keep me relevant and informed.

Carole Beckford

How does travel factor into your current position?

I travel throughout the Caribbean to attend meetings, matches, and events related to cricket, so I know the region really well. From time to time, I’ll make the occasional trip to the sub-continent, but I haven’t done that much in the last three years.

Carole Beckford

I know you’ve crisscrossed the globe extensively in past positions. Over the years, what countries captured a little piece of your heart?

I love the UK and Europe. Those places were where I spent a lot of time with Usain. I got to see a bit of Daegu, South Korea too. Carole Beckford in South Korea

Back then, I also visited the U.S. for media tours. Most of the time those trips were short, but England still holds significant memories for me. A trip from London to Birmingham by bus is always interesting, no matter how many times you do it.

Did some of those places grow on you after a second or third visit, or did they make a good first impression from the get go? What caused you to change your mind, if at all?

I am not the best tourist, and I have only recently begun to make an effort to see attractions and do more while in a destination.  The first impression better lasts…or else (smile). I am doing better as I now go in a day earlier to look around. The truth is I prefer to test the “mojitos”. For me, that experience is way more exciting. When I return to a country it is generally for a sport-related event, like a match, game or a conference. Carole Beckford

What resources do you use for travel advice & tips?

I am old-fashioned, so I do not use apps at all. I conduct online research, and once I book my ticket and accommodation, I tag the things I like in my mailbox so I can refer to them later. I also talk to the locals as that’s a way to become more familiar with what is happening in the streets. One major tip I’d like to add here is that while it’s always good to interact with residents who’ll make you feel at home, you must always be aware of your environment.

What’s your best travel memory, and what was the most bizarre?
It’s hard to pick just one. Cymru, Wales was quaint but fun. The Cardiff Castle was also a real treat. In addition to that, I had a blast on the streets in Ouchy, a seaport and popular lakeside resort located south of the city of Lausanne, Switzerland. It literally sits at the edge of Lake Geneva halfway across the globe, and yet they had Jamaican curried chicken on a menu in one of the restaurants!

Carole Beckford

Sampling red wine at a few vineyards in Lisbon, Portugal gave me a nice rush too. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Sound of Music tour in Austria.

My most bizarre experience was when a colleague/friend fell prey to some pickpockets in Salzburg, Austria. But she wasn’t harmed and recovered from the shock quickly.

Do you think a person’s experiences in different parts of the world can impact his/her outlook on life?

Absolutely! Travel adds perspective on people, experiences and helps with adaptability.

Finally, let’s go through a few trivia questions to have a little fun. Are you team roll or fold when you pack? Do you prefer the aisle seat or window? Are you a print or mobile boarding pass user? Would we spot you at an airport with a carry on or heading to check your bag? And do you rely on ear buds or eye patches for long-haul flights?

I fold for short trips as I never check luggage, but I roll for trips longer than a week. Incidentally, I never do laundry on a trip because it’s always easier to buy what I need.
I prefer a mobile boarding pass and the window seat generally, although I’ll opt for an aisle seat if I’m with a group. No earbuds or eye patches for me. I do not like having anything in my ears, plus I sometimes read a book and I sleep easily anyway.

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(All photos accompanying this post are courtesy of Carole Beckford).

To keep up with Carole, you can follow her on Twitter or visit her website for sport industry updates and insights.

Vacation like a celebrity in Nevis!

Nevis, the sister-island to St. Kitts, is a 36 square mile lush and unspoiled slice of paradise. It’s about 217 miles (350 km) east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 50 miles (80 km) west of Antigua.

A tiny island that has more monkey crossings than stop lights, it has attracted, and continues to lure, its fair share of notable visitors. mount nevis

It’s the place where Princess Diana went to escape the media spotlight after her divorce in 1996. In more recent times, the likes of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, John Travolta, Beyoncé, Britney Spears and former US President Bill Clinton have visited.

If you are considering Nevis for your next Caribbean vacation, you could be their next A-list visitor!

Below, I’ve shared my suggestions for things to do when you go..

1. Visit the wedding site of Frances “Fanny” Nisbet and Admiral Horatio Nelson

If you’re in the mood to get whimsical, you can visit the wedding place of the decorated British naval officer who has a statue in his honor at London’s famed Trafalgar Square. Nelson and his wife Fanny got married under a silk cotton tree at Montpelier Estate in 1787, shortly before the end of his Caribbean tour of duty.

Entrance to Montepelier Plantation, chains away from the Nelson wedding site
Entrance to Montepelier Plantation, chains away from the Nelson wedding site

2. See the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton is the man credited with being one of the most influential contributors to the U.S. Constitution. The oceanfront location houses a museum and the local parliament. I found it slightly surreal to walk through that modest looking abode and read about the early history of the man on the face of the US$10 bill.

The humble home that is now part museum, part center of Parliament
The humble home that is now part museum, part center of Parliament

3. Dip your body, arms or toes in the therapeutic Bath Spring

This is a free outdoor “spa” supplied by hot volcanic waters that flow from a hillside. It is reputed to cure numerous aches and pains but be warned, the temperature gets very hot, so tourists are advised not to spend more than 10 minutes at a time soaking up its healing powers.

4. Explore the Botanical Gardens

All nature lovers will like this place because it is hard not to appreciate seeing the array of tropical trees, plants and shrubs that are so lovingly cared for by the efficient yet unobtrusive staff. What’s more, the quiet spaces, the Asian-influenced statues and the fountains make it feel like an oasis that will zap all your stress away.

That bench whispers R&R!
That bench whispers R&R!

5. Get stung by a Killer Bee at the legendary Sunshine’s Bar and Grill

No, that’s not an insect; it’s a simple but powerful signature cocktail that will knock you sideways if it is consumed too quickly. Located on Pinney’s Beach, Sunshine’s is close to Four Seasons Nevis and it is an experience not to be missed.

6. Eat, eat…and eat!

Whether you opt for lunch at Golden Rock, a pre-dinner snack at Banana’s Bistro, a fancy four-course meal at Coconut Grove or simple local fare, just unbuckle your belt and give in 100% to the foodie experience. Simply plan to lose the pounds later because the meals are beyond good. You must try local favorites like the goat water (a thick, meaty soup) and Tanya fritters (made from root vegetables).

Such a pretty lunch venue! What is/was on YOUR plate today?

A post shared by @mytravelstamps on

7. Tour the old sugar plantations that are now converted into hotels

Once a vibrant industry, sugar production used to be the backbone of the Nevisian economy. Evidence of that is seen in the many sugar mill ruins you’ll see as you drive around the island. Hermitage Plantation, Montpelier Plantation, Nisbet Plantation and Golden Rock Inn, were some of the ones I visited and they each had their own distinctive style.

Hermitage Planatation Great House

8. Finally, no trip to the Caribbean would be complete without a few hours spent lazing on an uncrowded beach

I clocked my sun and sand time at the Paradise Beach Nevis but there are several places to choose from. Go pick out your beach chair and mark your own spot soon!

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Editor’s Notes:

I originally wrote these travel tips for a site I contribute to called TravelDudes. The article first appeared there in August 2015.

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My four best sunsets of 2015

I’m a little late with my end-of-year roundups but its still early in 2016 so I figure I’ll proceed with them nonetheless.

These were my four best ‘captured” sunsets of 2015, in no particular order.

Snappas Grill and Chill in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas
Snappas Grill and Chill in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas
Paradise Beach, St. Kitts and Nevis
Paradise Beach, Nevis
Ocean Club Resorts, Turks and Caicos
Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

 

South Florida, USA
South Florida, USA

 

Related stories can be found here:

Four great beach bars in the Bahamas Out Islands

Showering outdoors on vacation; have you or would you?

Turks and Caicos: 7 Fun Ways to Play in Providenciales

Saddle up in South Florida!

Home sweet home…Jamaica!

I’m thankful I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden a camel in the Egyptian desert; toured castles and palaces in Europe and China; gone on safari in South Africa, had drinks in the 7-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai; watched a football (soccer) match in Brazil and more. BUT none of those experiences trump the feeling I get when I go home. Every single time I go back, I find something new to appreciate about my little land of wood and water.

That’s because, to me, there’s no other place on earth where…

The food, like home-cooked salt fish fritters and a cup of bush tea or hot milo is as delicious and as filling.

Saltfish fritters masterfully prepared by one of the greatest home cooks in my family, my aunt.
Saltfish fritters masterfully prepared by one of the greatest home cooks in my family, my aunt.

The road side stops with random vendor interactions are as entertaining. Or where the fruit stall purchases are as fresh and as satisfying.

Sell me a coconut water and a whole pineapple, please
Sell me a coconut water and a whole pineapple, please

The natural landscapes are so lush and breathtaking.

One of the many waterfalls at Shaw Park Gardens in Ocho Rios
One of the many waterfalls at Shaw Park Gardens in Ocho Rios. St. Ann

The wildlife is as colorful. 

Friendly birds in the aviary at Turtle River Falls and Gardens in Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Friendly birds in the aviary at Turtle River Falls and Gardens in Ocho Rios, St. Ann

The history of the country is as relatable and as poignant

The view from Seville Great House in St. Anns Bay
The view from Seville Great House in St. Anns Bay

The early morning ocean sprays and the warm water are as refreshing and enticing.

Early Morning beach stroll at Jewels Dunn's River Resort and Spa
Early Morning beach stroll at Jewels Dunn’s River Resort and Spa

And for all those reasons and more, I am proud to call that place HOME.

The colors of the Jamaican flag symbolize the story of my people. Burdens and hardships there may be, but we have hope and the sun still shines
The colors of the Jamaican flag symbolize the story of my people. Burdens and hardships there may be, but we have hope and the sun still shines.

Yes parri, JAMAICA nice yuh know!

________

Editor’s Notes:

In case you’ve wondered about it, the  yellow in the Jamaican flag represents our sunshine and natural resources; the black, the burdens borne by the people;  and the green stands for agriculture and hope for the future.

Canvas goods infused with family traditions and values on Man-O-War Cay

What began as a small bag and purse-making operation in a modest seafarer’s home more than sixty years ago, is now ‘Albury’s Sail Shop’; a notable landmark and viable business on Man-O-War Cay. Travelers who enjoy visiting places with character or appreciate owning original products that are not mass produced need to add this shopping find to your things-to-do list, if they are ever in the Out Islands of the Bahamas.

Albury's Sail Shop, Man-O-War Cay
Albury’s Sail Shop, Man-O-War Cay

Miss Annie, the warm and affable matriarch who runs the family-owned business, has an endearing “Come Home to Mama” personality that envelopes you as soon as you enter the store. A third-generation seamstress, she invokes feelings of happy gatherings around the dinner table and triggers an unexplainable desire to run around giving random bear hugs to every third or fourth person you meet.

Miss Annie at her sewing machine
A smiling Miss Annie at her sewing machine

Albury’s Sail shop uses sturdy canvas – material that is integral to the production of boat sails – to make colorful hats, bags and other products that are one-of-a kind. The shop’s extensive line is impressive in its own right but even more so given its history. Miss Annie’s ancestors started the cottage industry by making small draw-string bags from leftover scraps of canvas.

A sampling of the various styles and patterns available at Albury's Sail Shop
A sampling of the various styles and patterns available at Albury’s Sail Shop

The best part is, the shop’s open floor plan allows you to stand inside, lean against a wall outside, or perch beneath a jalousie-style window and watch the production process unfold. I was pleasantly surprised that the items are all reasonably priced in spite of the labor-intensive process.

The machine Miss Annie uses was owned by her grandmother before her. Like a trusted horse that knows every foothold of a cliff because it has gone that way before, three antique but well-oiled and functional sewing machines lead the seamstresses through the ropes. The only difference was rather than the clicking sound generated by trotting hoofs, the room was filled with staccato bursts akin to whirring hums.

Ladies sewing canvas bags in Alburys Sail Shop
Two other ladies sewing canvas bags in Alburys Sail Shop

I encourage you to stand still for a few minutes and watch the ladies work. Then I implore you to  let the gentle island breezes lift you up and transport you back to a simpler time.

Editor’s Notes:

There is no way for me to verify this but I’ve read that celebrities like Robert Redford, Perry Como, Kenny Rogers, Andy Garcia, Kenny Chesney, Derek Jeeter, Beyonce, Jay Z and Leonardo DiCaprio have all crossed Miss Annie’s threshold. You should visit with her too.

I stayed at the Abaco Beach Resort when I was in The Abacos.

Four great beach bars in the Bahamas Out Islands

The 120-mile long chain of islands and cays scattered in the northern part of the Bahamas could be the reason the Abacos is a boater’s paradise. But just as easily,the blatant lack of hustle and bustle and the sheer luxury of non-existent deadlines could hold the larger appeal.

Whatever the reason, it cannot be denied that where men go beer, rum and other adult beverages often follow. Simply translated that means the area is brimming with great bars; there is one almost at every ferry or dinghy stop.

Now THAT is a rum list!
Now THAT is a rum list! (Cracker P’s)

If you ever have reason to visit the Out Islands of the Bahamas, I recommend that you visit at least one of these four beach bars:

Cracker P’s Bar and Grill on Lubbers Quarters.

Cracker P's
Cracker P’s

You pull up to the dock and walk directly into an indoor/outdoor space that vibrates with positive energy. Perhaps the only thing more expansive than the panoramic views and the bar itself is the owner’s engaging personality. Patrick and his wife, Linda, and their staff make you feel at home from the get-go. The bar has an extensive rum list, a specially crafted hot sauce, and a casual menu chock-full of seafood options. You simply must try the cheesy fish dip! Even my hips will tell you it’s sinfully good. And ask about their legendary Full Moon Parties. I heard they are not to be missed.

Curly Tails in Marsh Harbor.

Curly Tails Beach Bar
Curly Tails Beach Bar

This spot is a great place to unwind, meet up with friends and enjoy some libations and food while you bask in the view or wait for the ferry to Great Guana Cay. It is a casually chic hangout that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and they have a wide selection of fine wines, premium liquors and beers. Try their conch fritters or grouper burger, and look around for the fast-moving curly tail lizards for which the bar got its name.

Nipper’s is the place to be on a Sunday afternoon.

NIpper's Beach Bar
NIpper’s Beach Bar

It is a colorful and vibrant bar in Guana Cay that sits atop a sand cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Locals and visitors converge there for the weekly pig roast and to sip some of the best frozen drinks you’ll find anywhere. If you go on Sunday, expect a crowd and be prepared to have fun. It gets loud, and sometimes a little crazy so no party poopers are allowed.

Snappas Chill and Grill is a great spot for cocktails.

The sunset at Snappas
The sunset at Snappas

It has a relaxing atmosphere and friendly staff, and it’s right on the water. I watched the sunset from there on the second night of my trip and it was simply breathtaking. They offer daily Happy Hour specials from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays.

Cheers!

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on TravelDudes.org as I am one of the many contributors to the site. Check it out.

Havana, Cuba: A lesson in authenticity

Ever since the 1961 US embargo, Cuba has held a hint of mystique for the Western traveler. Call me silly but I always likened its allure to the attraction that a girl next door feels for the brooding and mysterious “bad boy” who drives her a little lust crazy.

All my female readers past puberty will understand the magnetism of which I speak.  You know that slightly cocky, risk-taking, cigar smoking and motorcycle riding James Dean lookalike who, at some point in our lives, was maddeningly close yet still out of reach.

Boy meets girl
Boy meets girl

Then finally, one day the unexpected happens. You meet him and the two of you get to spend a little time together. And reality trumps perception. In fact, it turns all your preconceived notions upside down.

That is how I felt when I visited Havana. Next to the sense of stepping into a 1950s time machine, the second biggest impression I got was how devoid it was of swagger. By the end of my stay, I realized it was truly one of the most unpretentious and authentic destinations that I had ever been to.

While walking through the streets I saw families sitting at their dining tables talking and eating with doors wide open. On a bus tour, I passed kids who probably never heard of PlayStations and tablets playing contentedly with very rudimentary hand-made toys. Plus, some women even walked to the store with their hair still in rollers. There were no touristy costumes or hustles.

Boys at play
Boys at play

The very lack of pretense displayed also highlighted the country’s resilience. Architecturally stunning buildings that told of former glory days stood majestically tall despite being in dire need of paint and restoration.

Locals drove brightly painted Oldsmobile Rockets, Chevrolet Bel Airs and other classic American cars that were buffed to perfection and ran like well-oiled machines. The condition of those vehicles served as further evidence of the resourcefulness and skill level of Cuban electricians and tradesmen. They had to adapt engines and keep up with repairs without access to factory-made spare parts.

Classic Car
Classic Car

So if I were to sum up my 36 hour Cuban experience in one word, it would be “real”.  Real people, real stories, real struggles, real need, real strength in the face of adversity, real beauty, and abundant warmth and hospitality.

If you go for a short visit, here are five suggestions for things to do.

1. Take a leisurely walk through the old town

Like Venice, Old Havana is a walking city. Our cab driver couldn’t take us all the way to the hotel front door because of the narrow streets and pedestrian only zones, so we had to pull our carry-ons part of the way.

Street in Old Havana
Street in Old Havana

Built in the early 1500s, this part of the town showcases buildings from the colonial era. Many border either the Plaza Viaja, the Plaza de la Catedral or the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis. (Click here to see panoramic view of the Plaza Viaja) The level of detail on the buildings is incredible and they form the perfect backdrop for memorable photographs. When you get tired, you can stop to have coffee or grab a meal in any of the local eateries along the cobblestone-lined streets.

If you are free, return in the evening to enjoy some of the Cuban nightlife. Beautiful melodies are always in the air!

2. Stock up on local music and art

If you enjoy listening to Latin jazz, salsa and mambo, or collecting inexpensive originals from local artisans around the world, you can’t leave Cuba without stocking up on some of its distinctive music and art.

Street vendors
Street vendor

Ask your hotel concierge for the location of the nearest street market where you can buy compact discs, oil paintings, watercolors, wood carvings, basket work and hand-made jewelry. Warning: be prepared to negotiate for that extra special item.

3. Visit the Museum of the Revolution

If you are interested in Cuban history, a visit to the Museum of the Revolution is a must. Located on Calle Refugio 1, this museum’s artifacts are housed in the former Presidential Palace once used by ousted leader Fulgencio Batista.

Museum of the Revolution
Museum of the Revolution

The displays are on different levels, ranging from the country’s pre-Colombian culture to its current communist regime. Many exhibits pay homage to the Cuban Revolution and the War of Independence that the country waged with Spain. Fidel Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto “Che” Guevara are all prominently featured, and you will see everything from blood stained military uniforms to downright silly and satirical commentary on former US presidents.

Statue depictiing a scene from the Revolution
Statue depictiing scenes from the Revolution

Across the street, you also can find open air exhibits such as tanks and vehicles, a part of an alleged American spy plane, and the yacht Fidel and Che sailed on from Mexico.  Go at the right time, and you might catch the changing of the guards.

4. Book a day trip to the Viñales Valley

About a 3-hour drive out of Havana, a ride through the hills and into the Viñales Valley offers you a breathtaking view of one of the most popular areas for tobacco production and farming.

View from Look Out Point
View from Look Out Point

On the way there, you can stop and have lunch at the Mural de La Historia, a 120m-long painting on the side of Mogote Dos Hermanos.

I was told that Cuban painter Leovigildo González Morillo designed the mural in 1961 and it was painted by local farmers. The dinosaurs, sea monsters, snail and humans in the painting symbolize the theory of evolution.

Naughty girl! lol
Naughty girl! lol

On my trip, I also visited a rum factory, a small limestone cave called Cuevo del indio, and we stopped at La Casa del Veguero. The latter is a restaurant with a secadero (traditional tobacco drying house) and a live demonstration of how to hand roll Cuban cigars. (Click here for video)

5. Sip afternoon cocktails on the lawns of the Hotel Nacional

No trip to Havana is complete without a visit to the Hotel Nacional, one of the oldest properties in Cuba. Reportedly, it was the host hotel for a notorious mob summit – The Havana Conference of 1946 –attended by leaders of the United States and Sicilian Mafia who converged on the island to discuss transnational mob policies, rules, and other notable “business  interests”.   It is likely that the resolutions and agreements made in that pivotal meeting were implemented and observed by crime families for many decades.

Lawns of the Hotel Nacional

The hotel’s lawns overlook the waterfront area and you get a peaceful and relaxing view of the locals’ evening activity. If you wish, you also can check their event listing and go to see their lively cabaret show.

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Now that Cuba’s doors are more open to US travel – albeit within specified categories – I expect a rush to the border. So book early! If you plan to participate in athletic, cultural, religious, educational or humanitarian activities, it should be easy to get a license to travel.

Editor’s Notes:

1. Take Canadian or European currencies as foreign exchange transactions involving the US dollar attract a surcharge. (Aug 2015 update: Due to the devaluation of the Canadian currency, I’ve heard that it is not being as widely accepted as before)

2. I saw far more billboards and iconography of Che than I did of Fidel Castro. Given that he was an Argentine transplant and second-in-command, I was completely taken aback by the degree of his popularity.

3. Order a pork dish somewhere… especially one prepared for the non-tourist palate.  The “cerdo” I had in the countryside was one of the best tasting meals ever.

Snapshots of Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island republic just off the northern coast of Venezuela. But its place in this world cannot be limited to geographic coordinates or size. Rather, its impact lies in the warmth and vitality of its people, its diverse culture, its soca music, and its oil.

Here is a brief look into the aesthetic beauty of these islands through the lens of talented photographer, Phil Sykes.

Clapboard views
Clapboard views
Relaxtion inlet
Relaxtion inlet

 

Peer flex
‘Peer’ flex

 

Paradise beckons
Paradise beckons
Balance
Balance
Man, woman, dog
Man, woman, dog
Multicultural roots
Multicultural roots
Journey's end
Journey’s end

BEHIND THE LENS: A brief chat with the photographer.

Phil Sykes
Phil Sykes

Phil, tell me about your love of photography. Would you describe it as a hobby, or a passion?

It’s both a hobby and a release. I have a high-stress job with demanding responsibilities and photography helps to relax me because it frees my mind. It’s the only thing in my life that is totally unstructured and therefore it allows me to be creative.

With my camera, all I ever have to think about is ‘f stops’ and shutter speeds. (An ‘f stop’ is a quantitative measure of the size of the lens opening)

I’ve heard you say you feel naked without a camera. Is that really true?

Yes it is. I’m naturally an introvert but my camera allows me to be a part of an event and still remain an observer. Sometimes my equipment even acts as a conversation starter. Wherever I am, I look at the environment around me as a potential photo opportunity. I am constantly assessing light, shape, patterns and compositions so when I see something awesome and I don’t have my camera with me, I get MAD.

How does your smartphone factor in, if at all?

Because I always have my iPhone on me, it has become the quick fix solution to that feeling of nakedness that I described. Thankfully, with a few quality apps, you now can take pictures that come close enough to a shot from a Digital Single-lens Reflex (DSLR) camera.

You’ve mentioned that you’ve started experimenting with different special effects apps. What is your favourite, and why?

My current favourite ‘gimmick’ is a processing technique called High Dynamic Range (HDR). It allows me to manipulate a picture in a way that better mimics what the eye actually sees. The eye is much more powerful than a camera lens as it instinctively adjusts to large variances in shadow and bright light, and then processes that data.

HDR is a method of combining a number of shots of the same scene, each taken with a slightly different exposure setting. The end result is a photo that balances shadow and light in a more natural way, which ultimately brings out an amazing level of detail.

The technique is frowned upon by some in the industry because they claim it relies too much on technology thus taking away from the skill of the photographer. I disagree. I believe that HDR complements and enhances the photographer’s skill. It has its place as one among many photography techniques.

What subjects do you enjoy shooting most?

I have two preferred subjects; family and friends in a controlled studio type environment, and travel and landscape photography. Both are very different and require separate skills.

I know you’re British and that you travel extensively. But you’ve been to this destination several times. Do you feel a special connection to Trinidad and Tobago?

The country has a special place in my heart not just because my wife is Trinidadian and my daughter was born there. Both islands have stunning landscapes and spectacular natural light. From beaches to mountains, rainforest to coconut tree plantation, and inner city life to Hindu Temples in the sea – there is so much to see and shoot!

Living in Dubai, I am used to very flat, dull light that is super bright. And there’s usually no clouds in the sky. Very often the visibility is also very poor. When I go home to Trinidad I can’t help but notice the clouds and the skies, the light, the very changeable weather, the cleanliness of the air and perfect visibility. Those elements create so many more opportunities for eye-catching photography.

You strike me as a gadgets man. So if your family and friends are reading this post, tell them what’s on your photography wish list for Christmas.

I do like me a good gadget, and photography has an awful lot to choose from. Honestly though, I’ve tried quite a few and then left them alone. I am a bit of a minimalist now. Check my gear bag and you will see that it is not that heavy. Two or three good lenses is all I really need.

The one thing I do need more of, is time. Time to practice and time to enjoy my hobby. Also, as photography is an ongoing learning experience I would welcome a gift of enrolment in one of the many specialist courses that are available. I am no expert, and my quest for knowledge is real. Anything that would allow me to continue to grow and get better at my craft would be appreciated.

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To look at his portfolio, you can visit his website at http://philipsykes.com. Or, to purchase high resolution versions of his Trinidad & Tobago images, and many others, you can email him directly at Phil.Sykes3@gmail.com. (He has so many stunning photos, it was HARD to select only eight)