Categories
At Home Photography

8 Crafty Ways to Display Travel Keepsakes

We’ve all been there: After a trip, you find ticket stubs, room keys, and other souvenirs in your pockets and bags for weeks. It seems like a shame to toss all those memories away, but keeping them in a box just adds to the clutter. The enforced time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic is a good excuse to finally get all your travel mementos in order. Here are eight cool ways to display your travel keepsakes.

Three-Ring Binder

There are plenty of decorative binders out there that don’t look like you stole them from the office supply closet. Find one you love, or create a personalized cover for one using travel photos. Then, take all of your paper mementos—postcards, brochures, restaurant menus, etc.—and punch holes in them. Soon you’ll have a library full of binders from all your trips. Find instructions here.

Sand Jars

candle and glass jars of sand and shells.

Want to remember that beautiful white-sand or black-sand beach forever? Scoop up a little bit to take home with you (and maybe some shells, too) if that’s permitted at your beach. Use your souvenir sand to partially fill up a glass mason jar. Insert a photo in the jar and maybe some shells or other memorabilia. See how to do it (and how to protect the photo in the jar) here.

Make a Ticket Collage

Put your tickets on display by making a collage. You can use ones from events, flights, and more. Best of all, it’s easy and cheap to do. All you need is a frame and a map. Use the map as a solid background, and then overlay your tickets on top. See some examples here.

Shadow Box

Got bulkier objects that you want to show off, like coins or even an old passport? Get a shadow box, a type of frame that lets you fit way more than a photo inside. Find ideas and instructions here.

Photo Book

photo books.

If you’d rather get crafty on your phone or computer, turn your travel snaps into a photo book from Shutterfly. You can customize photo sizes, layouts, captions, backgrounds, and more, and then add a memorabilia pocket to store boarding passes, tickets, or other mementos.

Room-Key Magnets

If you ask nicely, most hotels will let you keep those cheap plastic room keys. Once you’ve stockpiled a few, all you need is some magnetic tape to turn your keys into refrigerator magnets. Now every time you look at your fridge, you’ll be reminded of all of the amazing places you’ve stayed. You can also create magnets out of other memorabilia, such as casino chips, as shown here.

Fillable Ornaments

Wound up with a handful of foreign currency that you can’t bear to throw away? Grab some of these fillable ornaments and add in your coins for a sentimental decoration.

Passport Art

passport stamps close up

This project requires some crafting skills, but the end result will be more than worth it. Basically, photocopy and enlarge your favorite stamps from your passport, and transfer them onto wooden panels. Here’s what it looks like when it’s all done (plus detailed instructions).

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Packing Photography Travel Technology

Ditch the Wallet: 7 Phone Cases to Hold Your Essentials

Travel as light as possible with a phone case that does double duty as your wallet. These cases not only protect your phone from drops and scratches, but also hold the essentials you’ll need on a day out. Below are the best phone wallets to protect your device and save you space.

Smartish Vault Slim Wallet

Billed as the “wallet slayer” by phone case company Smartish, the Vault Slim Wallet lives up to its nickname. It holds three cards plus cash (or, if you’re like me and you rarely carry cash, you can cram in four cards). The case has grip-textured sides that have helped me drop my phone significantly less since switching to this case.

Incipio Stashback

Keep your cards and cash hidden yet easily accessible with the Incipio Stashback phone wallet. It looks like a standard phone case but has a secret compartment that hinges up to conceal up to three cards. The case has been impact-tested for drops up to seven feet high, so even the clumsiest phone owners can feel safe using it.

[st_related]10 Smart Ways to Carry Money While Traveling[/st_related]

Under Armour Protect Stash Case

Designed by Under Armour for tough environments, from traveling to hitting the gym, the Protect Stash Case can stand up to a lot of abuse. It has a shockproof case design with a padded interior and a “self-healing” exterior coating. The back is textured to give you a better grip while using or carrying your phone, and it won’t interfere with wireless charging. This phone wallet can hold up to three cards, but it’s still slim.

Smartish Q Card Case 

Need your phone case to pull triple-duty as protection as a wallet, protective layer, and a kickstand? The Smartish Q Card Case has a little slot built-in that allows you to use any card as a kickstand, so you can watch movies on your phone hands-free—which is perfect for airplane tray tables or simply relaxing in bed.

[st_related]How to Make Your Purse Lighter[/st_related]

LUPA Wristlet Wallet

Want to replace your entire purse with a phone wallet case? The LUPA wristlet wallet holds your phone, up to four cards, and cash, plus it has a handy strap so it can be carried on your arm. It’s also super affordable, so you can stock up on all of the fun colors to match any outfit.

Spigen Slim

I’ve received more compliments on the Spigen Slim phone case than any other travel tech accessory—the sliding door feature that holds your cards garners lots of jealous attention. This is probably the slimmest phone wallet case out there, which is a trade-off because it only holds two cards. You can fit three in there, but I ended up breaking the case by overloading it.

Card Buddy Stick-on Wallet

If you prefer to keep the phone case you already have but still want the benefits of a phone wallet, the CardBuddy is a good solution. It’s a removable pocket that can hold up to three cards plus cash, and sticks on to any existing phone case (or the back of your phone, if you like to live dangerously).

Stuck at Home? Stay Comfy and Productive:

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Caroline Morse Teel prefers a phone wallet case over a purse for travel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for style and travel photos from around the world.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Codey Albers contributed to this story.

Categories
At Home Photography

Bring a Vacation Vibe to Your Zoom Calls with These Free Custom Backgrounds

Editor’s Note 4/3/20: Due to Security Concerns with Zoom please be sure to upgrade your Zoom software to version 4.6.9 which has two critical security patches.

Miss travel? We do, too. But we’ve got a sorta-solve: these custom backgrounds you can download and use on all your Zoom calls.

There’s a backdrop for every occasion. Work Zoom? Class things up with the Amalfi Coast backdrop. Virtual cocktails with friends? Drink beneath tropical palm trees. Family dinner a la video call? Channel the fun of a day at the beach. As we all hunker down for another month of sheltering in place, video conferencing continues to be an important part of reducing social isolation.

Download your favorite travel-inspired backgrounds below, and then follow these instructions to bring the vacation vibe to this stay-at-home time.

Beach Dreams

Download: Palm Trees | Beach Day | Bungalow Sunset

Zoom background palm trees
Zoom background beach day
Zoom background bungalow sunset

European Adventures

Download: Madrid | Amalfi Coast | Santorini

Zoom background
Zoom background
Santorini zoom background

City Lights

Download: Shanghai | San Francisco | New York City

Zoom background
Zoom background
Zoom background

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Categories
Cities Photography

10 Eerily Beautiful Photos of Deserted Cities

As countries lock down in an attempt to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists have canceled their trips and citizens are being told to stay home. The destinations below are usually swarmed with tourists crowding for a good view, trying to get that perfect photo. Today they are largely empty. Streets are deserted, metro stations quiet, shops and cafes closed. These images of empty cities offer a different view that we don’t often, if ever, see—and despite the circumstances, they have a certain melancholy beauty.

Rome, Italy

A Police stands alone in front of the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy

A police officer stands in front of the Spanish Steps on March 12, 2020.

New York, New York

Times square is practically empty of tourists

Times Square stands mostly empty on March 21, 2020.

Madrid, Spain

Empty puerta del sol in Madrid Spain

Madrid’s Puerta del Sol is deserted on March 15, 2020.

London, England

A lone tourist in deserted London under lockdown during the Corona Virus Covid-19 outbreak.

A lone tourist sits in an empty Trafalgar Square on March 23, 2020.

Florence, Italy

piazza del dumo in florence, italy

Piazza del Duomo is shuttered in Florence on March 24, 2020.

Paris, France

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Few tourists gather around the Eiffel Tower on March 17, 2020.

Warsaw, Poland

Empty Old Town Square in Warsaw , Poland

Old Town Square is empty in Warsaw, Poland.

Berlin, Germany

Brandenburg gate Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate is void of tourists on March 21, 2020.

Kolkata, India

Railway platform is empty in West Bengal, India Kolkata

A railway platform is empty for Janata Curfew in Kolkata on March 22, 2020.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

typically busy streets of Amsterdam are shown nearly empty as the Coronavirus pandemic

The typically busy streets of Amsterdam are nearly empty on March 7, 2020.

Looking for Our Favorite Footwear for the Season? Check Out Allbirds

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Categories
Photography Travel Technology

Sony RXO II Premium Tiny Tough Camera: A Camera That’s Smaller and Better Than Your Phone

Sony’s RXO II Premium Tiny Tough Camera is smaller and lighter than your phone, and will capture significantly better photos and videos—even underwater or in dim lighting conditions. Here’s a photo I snapped while snorkeling that shows the vivid detail this pocket-sized camera can capture:

Sony RXO II Premium Tiny Tough Camera Review

Price and Where to Buy: The Sony RXO II Premium Tiny Tough Camera is available on Amazon for $698 (camera only) or $766 (with a bonus camera grip as part of the “Vlogger Bundle”).

 

How the Sony RXO II Premium Tiny Tough Camera Rates

  • Usefulness: 10/10. I find myself gravitating more to my phone for photos and videos since I don’t want to carry around a heavy or large camera. The Sony RXO II Premium Tiny Tough Camera is smaller than a phone, so it’s super easy to take on more physically active trips, and it’s as simple as a point-and-shoot. (That said, there are plenty of settings to play with if you prefer a more advanced, manual approach.) The camera works great underwater for both still photography and video, and the video has excellent built-in stabilization.
  • Photo Quality: 10/10. I was very impressed with the photo and video quality of this camera. A 1.0-type sensor and low-distortion ZEISS Tessar T lenses capture highly detailed photos and videos, even in tough lighting conditions.
  • Ease of Use: 9/10. You can pull this camera out and begin shooting right away, and the presets work well. You can switch between photos and videos fairly easily, and the camera can be linked to your smartphone to review or edit photos. A 180 degree-tiltable screen folds flat when not in use, or can be popped out to take a quick selfie.
  • Durability: 10/10. This camera is waterproof down to 33 feet, shockproof from a height of 6.5 feet, crushproof up to 440 pounds, and dustproof.

Final Verdict: Take better photos and videos without weighing yourself down while traveling with the Sony RXO II Premium Tiny Tough Camera.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Editor’s note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

Categories
Arts & Culture Fashion & Beauty Photography Travel Technology Travel Trends

7 Travel Decor Ideas to Make Your Home Feel Like Your Favorite Place


The hardest part about coming home from vacation is leaving everything that you loved about it behind. Typically, a tacky shot glass or T-shirt quickly becomes your only memory of a life-changing trip. Here are six ways to personalize your home through travel decor so you can hold on to those precious memories a little bit longer. And bring that vacation feeling home.

How to Personalize Your Home to Feel Like Your Favorite Destination

Candles

[st_content_ad]On a recent trip to Morocco, I fell in love with the smells of the busy markets, spices, and food. Luckily, one of the hotels I visited—La Mamounia—created a candle with a scent specifically made for the hotel. I obviously caved and bought it, and it has been a great way to remember both the country and hotel.

Similarly, Homesick Candles makes candles with unique scents for all 50 states. So if you loved the smell of spruce trees on a recent trip to Colorado, you can smell them once you’re back home.

[st_related]How to Make Your Home Smell Like a Hotel Spa[/st_related]

Photos

 

You don’t have to be a pro photographer to take awesome vacation photos. Photo website Artifact Uprising has an easy uploader that’ll transform even photos taken on your phone into a beautiful album, framed print, or calendar. I personally love the Instagram Friendly Books for your coffee table. Or enlarge some of your photos to hang in a gallery on your wall for some simple travel decor.

Grafomap

 

These thoughtfully designed map posters from Grafomap are another great addition to help personalize your home after a meaningful trip. Simply type in a location or city, and you can customize the colors, layout, and text. The company currently has nine different designs to fit almost any travel decor style.

Cutting Board

These state-shaped bamboo cutting boards are a unique way to show love for your favorite place, whether that’s where you’re from, currently living, or dreaming about. From wall-hanging to cheese-serving, who says home decor can’t serve a second purpose?

[st_related]Recreate Your Favorite Travel Meal at Home: The Best Kitchen and Dining Gadgets[/st_related]

Wall Mural

If you’re really looking to make a splash in your home, create your own wall mural wallpaper with your favorite vacation photo. Note that you will need a high-quality photo to enlarge for this travel decor item, however; Wallsauce.com has some epic photos of major travel landmarks. Or pick from the map wallpaper options for a more global approach.

Pillows

Custom-designed pillows are a comfy and easy way to add travel decor of your favorite destination. Simply upload your favorite photo to Target Photo’s website, and bring your best vacation memory straight to your couch.

[st_related]6 Ways to Feel Like You’re on Vacation at Home[/st_related]

Coasters

Location-specific coasters are a simple and inexpensive way to personalize your home. I love the Idea Design Coaster Set, which features illustrations of six popular cities. These Neighborwoods Coasters are also a great option if you have a favorite memory from a certain destination. Check out Etsy for even more custom coasters and travel decor ideas.

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Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
Photography Travel Technology

How to Take Your Own Passport Photo

Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to SmarterTravel on YouTube!

After paying $15 to have an awkward photo shoot in a CVS aisle, only to have my passport photos rejected twice—once for being too dark and once for being too bright—I decided there had to be a way to take your own passport photo. As it turns out, snapping your own passport photo is easier, cheaper, and much more convenient than going to a “professional” (a.k.a., the cashier at your local drugstore).

Websites to Help You Take Your Own Passport Photo

  • The U.S. State Department: Bureaucracy has moved into the 21st century, and even the State Department wants to help you take your own passport photo by offering a free photo cropping tool that will size your photo correctly so that you can print it yourself.
  • MyPassportPhotos.com: If you don’t want to deal with printing your own passport pictures, or if you need a passport or visa photo for another country (which may be a different size than the U.S. passport photo), MyPassportPhotos.com does everything for those who want to take a passport photo at home, including printing and mailing your photos directly to your house. You can also pay extra to have your photos checked to make sure that they will be approved.
  • Passport Photo Booth: For those wondering, “Can I take my own passport photo?” there’s an app for that. Passport Photo Booth (iOS | Android) helps you with the photo composition needed for passport photos, showing you exactly where to pose within the frame. You can e-mail or save the image for free, or pay extra to have your passport pictures printed.

[st_related]17 Essential Passport Wallets and Holders for Travelers[/st_related]

Key Passport Photo Requirements

If you’re planning to take a passport photo at home, make sure that it will meet all of the State Department’s passport photo requirements:

  • Passport pictures must be in color, not black and white.
  • Passport photos must be “2” x 2″ (51 x 51 mm) with the head centered and sized between 1″ and 1.4″ (25 and 35 mm).” (Click here for a passport photo composition template.)
  • Passport photos must be “taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance.”
  • Passport photos must be “taken in front of a plain white or off-white background.”
  • Passport photos must be “taken in full-face view directly facing the camera.”
  • When taking your own passport photo, make sure that you have a “neutral facial expression and both eyes open.”
  • Your passport picture should be “taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis.”
  • “Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing that is worn daily.”
  • When taking your own passport photo, “do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures the hair or hairline, unless worn daily for a religious purpose. Your full face must be visible, and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face.”
  • “Headphones, wireless hands-free devices, or similar items are not acceptable in your photo.”
  • “Eyeglasses are no longer allowed in new visa photos, except in rare circumstances when eyeglasses cannot be removed for medical reasons.”

To inform how to take your own passport photo, the State Department provides some examples of passport pictures that are and are not accepted. Check them out here.

[st_related]6 Rules for Faster Passport Renewal[/st_related]

How to Take Your Own Passport Photo

  • When taking passport pictures, get a neutral background. If you don’t have plain white walls to pose in front of at home, tape a piece of plain white poster board behind you to create a clean backdrop.
  • It’s important, when you take your own passport photo, to check the lighting. You can’t have any shadows in your passport photo, so taking it in natural daylight on a sunny day works best.
  • Get help: Selfies won’t be accepted as passport pictures, so you’ll either need to use a tripod if you want to take your own passport photo, or ask a friend to snap your picture.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel has more travel tips than how to take your own passport photos. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for advice and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Photography

The 7 Best Photo Printing Sites for Travelers

If your phone’s storage is overflowing but your walls are bare, you need these seven best photo printing sites. These websites make it easy for you to show off your favorite travel photos and make you feel like you’re back on vacation every time you glimpse a framed snapshot.

Mpix

mpix

Mpix prints out stunning photos that will look great at any size. Each order is handmade in Kansas using high-quality materials, and ships super-fast. Mpix offers among the most varieties of photo-printing options on the internet, meaning you can display your photos through unique formats such as a frameless metal print, Giclee print, a standout, wood print, or acrylic print. For a more off-the-wall option, Mpix will print your photos on everything from a mug to a blanket.

Shutterfly

Shutterfly Framed Photos

With frequent sales, Shutterfly is one of the most affordable photo printing sites around. In addition to offering great prints, Shutterfly also hosts free unlimited photo storage online, so you have a safe place to keep your files. For the easiest way to display your photos, order one of Shutterfly’s framed print options, which comes matted and mounted behind glass so all you have to do is hang it.

[st_related]10 Instant-Print Cameras Recommended by a Travel Photographer[/st_related]

Artifact Uprising

Artifact Uprising Framed Photo

Support a small, sustainable business when you print your photos by using Artifact Uprising. Based in Colorado, Artifact Uprising works with a non-profit to provide jobs for adults with disabilities. All the products are handmade in the U.S., and there are options for recycled papers and reclaimed wood. There are a wide variety of ready-to-hang framed photos, as well as fun options like photo books, calendars, and scrapbooks.

[st_related]7 Secrets to Taking Better Travel Photos[/st_related]

Amazon Photo Prints

Amazon Photo

Prime members get free delivery on any photo project with Amazon Photo Prints. This site is super simple to use and makes it easy to create photobooks, tabletop items, and wall décor. Your photos can be printed on a wide variety of materials, from paper to birchwood.

Fracture

Fracture.me

Looking for something more unique than a paper print? Check out Fracture’s eye-catching glass prints which transfer your photos onto frameless glass for a vibrant display. Choose from a variety of sizes as well as a wall or table mount. Each Fracture product is made in Florida and inspected for quality before being shipped out.

Target Photo

Target Photo

A different website than regular Target.com, TargetPhoto.com is a surprisingly cheap and high-quality way to print out your photos. Projects are produced in a lab (not in-store) so you’ll have to wait two to three days for your items to ship, but it’s worth the wait. There are lots of fun options on this site, including a 252-piece puzzle, beach towels, and coasters made from your photos.

[st_related]12 Travel Photography Mistakes to Avoid[/st_related]

Easy Canvas Prints

Easy Canvas Prints Photo

For a large-scale photo, check out Easy Canvas Prints, which does as the name says—prints your photo on a ready-to-hang canvas. The site also makes it simple to create a gallery wall, offering different, customizable options based on the size of the area you want to fill.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
Photography

20 Instagram Accounts to Follow for 2020 Travel Inspiration


Up your travel game this year by following these 20 inspirational travel Instagram accounts. Yes, of course, we’re listing ourselves first, but these 19 other accounts are just as awesome and deserve a follow, too!

@smartertravel

We post dreamy inspiration content, packing tips, reader photos, and more daily. Also, be sure to follow us for travel-related gear giveaways and sweepstakes.

@jetsetterdotcom

Jetsetter, posts bucket-list trips, style inspiration, and more on its account. Fair warning: The feed will cause travel envy.

@whattopack_

Follow What to Pack for packing lists, outfit inspiration, and what you should wear in almost every destination.

@oysterhotels

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Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort is a gigantic all-inclusive luxury resort along Cancun's Mayan Riviera. With 2,433 rooms across three resort sections, it's no shock that this is the largest Palace property in the world. From Sunrise's larger-than-life pool and Flowrider machine, to the charming boutique-vibe of the Moon Grand, to the fabulous kids club by Nizuc, and the standalone spa and golf center, this resort truly is all-inclusive.⁠ ⁠ ⁠ Full review via link in bio!⁠ ⁠ #cancun #travelgram #wanderlust #vacation #travelphotography #beautifuldestinations #travelinspiration #bestvacations #travelpics #passportready #beautifulhotels #allinclusive #exploring #traveling #wanderer #travelbug #stayandwander #drone #dronephotography #dronestagram⁠

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For the most accurate hotel reviews and insider industry information, follow Oyster.

@familyvacationcritic

For family travel tips and destination inspiration, follow Family Vacation Critic.

@airfarewatchdog

For up-to-date airfare deals and inspo for where to book your next bucket list trip, follow Airfarewatchdog.

@thebucketlistfamily

We love following this family around the world!

@tinyatlasquarterly

Gorgeous photo and story-telling inspiration from around the world.

@accidentallywesanderson

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_____________________ Harz Railway | Saxony-Anhalt, Germany | c. 1897 • Deep within the Harz Mountains, among its dense forests and snow-capped mountains, Brocken Mountain stands tall above the peaks and valleys of northern Germany. The Harz Railway, Europe’s longest railway network with daily steam operation, winds through the region taking passengers up to Brocken each year • Plans for a railway to Brocken began as early as 1869, but took over twenty years to come to fruition. After ​Prince Otto of Stolberg-Wernigerode allocated the land, development began and the Brocken Railway was opened in 1898. The Harz Railway had been opened the year before. Both rails are part of three interconnecting lines, the third being the Selke Valley Railway, which together form the Harz Narrow Gauge Railway • Before the railways offered picturesque train tours, they endured their fair share of turmoild brought on by war and political strife. During WW2, parts of the track suffered damage from bombs and artillery shells. Upon the construction of the Berlin Wall, Brocken and its station wound up in the out-of-bounds area and were no longer accessible to the public. East German Border Troops who were stationed on the mountain often boarded goods trains to make sure there weren’t any stowaways looking to cross the border • Today, the Harz Narrow Gauge Railway attracts up to 1 million passengers each year and serves a blend of tourists, hikers, and locals. Its route extends 86 miles and serves 48 stations with a fleet of 25 steam engine trains. As efficient as any modern railway, it continues to run through idyllic landscapes of Germany even passing through medieval towns where steep-roofed houses and narrow cobblestone streets remain preserved as they were in their prime centuries ago • Know more? Please comment below! • 📸: @meredithbraden ✍: @kelly.murray 📰: @wikipedia + @telegraph • #AccidentallyWesAnderson​ ​#AccidentalWesAnderson​ ​#WesAnderson​ ​#VscoArchitecture​ ​#Vscotravel #SaxonyAnhalt #Saxony #Harz #TrainTravel #TrainRide #HarzMountains #Brocken #Germany🇩🇪

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A funny and ironic look at the world through the oddly specific style inspired by the famed filmmaker, Wes Anderson.

@afarmedia

Thoughtful reader photos, travel tips, and more from one of our favorite travel magazines, Afar.

@atlasobscura

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An otherworldly restaurant sits perched on the edge of a jagged cliff next to a medieval holy city. ⁠ ⁠ Lalibela, Ethiopia is a holy city, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its 12th century churches cut into the rock of the earth. On the opposite end of the architectural spectrum, just a short walk away, is Ben Abeba, a snail shell of a building that looks more like a spaceship landed on top of that rock.⁠ ⁠ Ben Abeba is a restaurant of wide-open spaces, located next to the historic architectural wonders of Lalibela. Perched high on a hill on the north side of town, it’s often described as looking like a bouquet of flowers or some sort of cooking pot. The award-winning restaurant serves a menu mixing traditional Ethiopian dishes and western fare, sometimes combining the two.⁠ ⁠ 📷 Photo by @wannabetraveler

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Exploring unknown places in the world that you probably would have never heard of unless it was for Atlas Obscura.

@chrisburkard

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I’ve been home for just over a day after spending the last 2 weeks in one of my favorite places. Alaska’s remote Aleutian chain. It also happens to be one of the more remote and challenging places to access. We decided to gamble this time and go late in the season. Most days hovered below freezing with winds gusting up to 50+ knots regularly. I felt prepared for the conditions mentally & physically but it still wrecked my body and my equipment massively. We walked away from the trip with an overwhelming near 30,000 images. I’ve found the hardest part of being in this place is leaving… and I don’t mean because it’s so beautiful but because the weather get so bad that being stuck there for 2+ weeks with limited food is a common problem. This place is notorious for grounded flights. Half our crew had to wait out the bad weather for 4 extra days and is just finally departing tonight. @_ryanhill_ @benweiland @parkercoffin @natezoller @harrisonsan @mikey_rangel @roark @sonyalpha @blackdiamond @gomacro

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Professional photographer with amazing travel experiences (and photos!)

@chelseakauai

 

Follow for outstanding landscapes and underwater photos of the Pacific Ocean.

@tripadvisor

The o.g. of user-generated travel photos.

@natgeotravel

Thumb-stopping photos of cultures, their people, and the places where both exist.

@travisburkephotography

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This place is extremely hard to get into. With only 20 permits given a day using a lottery system and hundreds of people from all over the world trying to get in, the odds are against you. I tried for the next-day permit a few days ago and wasn’t successful. Over the years I’ve collectively spent months camping out for a permit, it’s tough but the reward is worth the effort! In other wave news, I’m super excited to be heading to Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch (@kswaveco) tomorrow to surf the best man-made wave in the world with @outerknown. As a kid, I grew up with a giant poster of @kellyslater over my bed so this will definitely be a dream come true! …I’m also super nervous about falling and blowing it on the wave haha. 😅🤞🏼

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Outdoorsy photos with descriptive and helpful captions of his first-hand experience.

@usinterior

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Reaching for the #stars, the twisted branches of ancient bristlecone pines at Great Basin National Park in #Nevada have managed to thrive where most vegetation cannot survive. Their story is one of resilience. With cold temperatures, a short growing season and high winds, #bristleconepines in these high-elevation environments grow exceptionally slowly. This slow growth makes their wood very dense and resistant to insects, fungi, erosion and rot. They do not achieve their #legendary age or fascinating twisted shapes if they aren't faced with the harsh growing conditions. Such grace can come of hardship and these trees are truly inspiring. Photo Eric Ritchie (@ninamayerritchie) (www.sharetheexperience.org). #usinterior #greatbasinnationalpark #FindYourPark #astrophotography

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Dreamy photos of America’s national and state parks.

@modern.architecture

Travel isn’t just about the natural landscapes, and this account honors the manmade marvels around the world.

@kallelgomes

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Hoje faz exatamente 1 ano que postei essa foto da Catedral da Sé. Desde então minha vida na fotografia sofreu uma reviravolta, meu estilo de criação e edição foi evoluindo durante esse tempo e aprendi muito com cada um de vocês. E ai, quais dessas minhas criações malucas feitas durante esse ano que se passou vocês mais gostam? Comentem escolhendo apenas 3 e marquem os amiguinhos que ainda não viram essas fotos! Só tenho a agradecer por todos os feedbacks, mensagens de apoio e troca de ideias. . . . . . . #visualambassadors #omelhorclick #ourstreetdays #moodygrams #meucliqueestadao ⁠⁠#all2epic #milliondollarvisuals #quefotolinda #streetgrammers #streets_vision #reflectiongram #depthobsessed #meistershots #sp4you #fatalframes #citygrammers #canonphotographers #euvivosp #depthgrammers #depthdiscovered #citykillerz #thestreetpr0ject #themoodymag #ourmoodydays #gramslayers #supremeshutter #splovers #jornaloglobo #estadao #spcity466anos

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Cities like you’ve never seen them before.

@eventyr

Follow for an inside look at what it’s like to live in one of the world’s happiest countries, Norway.

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Editors’ note: Jetsetter, What to Pack, Airfarewatchdog, Family Vacation Critic, and Oyster are sister brands of SmarterTravel. TripAdvisor is also our parent company. 

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Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Cities Experiential Travel Historical Travel Island Outdoors Photography Sustainable Travel Travel Trends

10 Natural Wonders to See Before They’re Gone


As you work your way through your list of places to see before you die, consider flagging a few as urgent. These 10 iconic coral reefs, glaciers, low-lying islands and other gorgeous natural wonders are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Natural Wonders That Won’t Be Around Forever

Read on to learn the stories of these wonders of the world, and get ideas about how to explore them before they’re gone.

Glacier National Park, Montana

In 1850, more than 150 glaciers capped the peaks in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Only 26 are left today. Of those still in existence, some have retreated as much as 85 percent over the past 50 years, according to a recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey. Global warming continues to take its toll on glacier mass—mean annual temperatures are up 1.33 degrees Celsius since 1900. It might sound like an insignificant uptick, but it’s enough of a shift to impact park ecosystems. Without glaciers and their continual meltwater running into streams, the streams get too warm in summer for some aquatic insects to survive. When those die off, it disrupts the food chain for the native bull trout population.

If you go: Hike the trails on Many Glacier for a great view of the waterfalls and alpine lakes that characterize this closer-to-home wonder of the world. The best place to see a glacier from the road is at Jackson Glacier Overlook on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Watch for mountain goats and Bighorn sheep near Logan Pass.

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Amazon Rainforest, South America

Spanning nine countries in South America, the Amazon Basin holds about half of the world’s tropical rainforests. If you laid the Amazon rainforest over the 48 contiguous United States it would cover 70 percent of the country. Unfortunately, about 17 percent of that rainforest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly to cattle ranching, according to the World Wildlife Fund. So large is the rainforest that the wellbeing of the planet depends on the health of the Amazon, which stabilizes global climate. Deforestation releases significant amounts of the Amazon’s 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, potentially causing devastating consequences to the earth’s water cycle. When trees are cut down, not only is carbon dioxide released, but less is absorbed going forward. The Nature Conservancy compares it to opening a forgotten container of leftovers in the fridge … except on a global scale.

If you go: You can go deep into the rainforest on the Amazon Conservation Association’s Manu Cloud Forest Canopy Walkway slung between trees at dizzying heights of up to 144 feet.

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Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

About a 2.5-hour drive west of Mexico City, you’ll find a great wonder of the world: The planet’s only place to see millions of migrating monarch butterflies in a single spot. After a 3,000-mile journey to Canada and the U.S., they return each year to overwinter in the fir forests of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. But deforestation in Mexico, climate change, and habitat loss along their migratory route are endangering the migrating subspecies. According to a 2015 report by UNESCO, the area of forest the butterflies cover in their winter home is the second lowest it has been since monitoring began in 1993. The habitat surrounding their reserve is at risk—it is being illegally deforested and replaced with groves of avocados, a high-yield cash crop.

If you go: Hire a local guide to take you by bike or horseback along a forest trail to a remote part of the butterfly reserve. January and February are the best times to see the monarchs clustering in such massive quantities that they weigh down the boughs of fir trees in quivering heaps.

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Mesoamerican Barrier Reef; Mexico, Belize, and Honduras

You might not have heard of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, but if you’ve snorkeled in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or elsewhere along the Caribbean coast of Central America, then you’ve likely already visited this natural wonder. The Mesoamerican stretches 600 miles from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula through Belize and Honduras. It’s the world’s second largest barrier reef, and the color is slowly draining from it. The Belize section is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the 54 sites on UNESCO’s “in danger” list. Rising ocean temperatures have caused mass bleaching of the coral. When temperatures rise even slightly, the corals expel the algae that lives in coral tissues, which causes them to turn completely white and become susceptible to disease and death. Overfishing, pollution, potential offshore oil drilling, and changes in the water’s pH are other threats cited by the Nature Conservancy.

If you go: Viator’s Belize tour offers snorkeling in protected areas of the coral reef. See manta rays, sea turtles and the occasional manatee on a night snorkeling tour.

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White Cliffs of Dover, Great Britain

The iconic white cliffs of Dover are slipping away at an alarming rate. The rare cliffs, exposed to the weather and battered by storm waves, are retreating at a rate 10 times faster in the last 150 years than they did in the 7,000 years prior. Each year eight to 12 inches calve from the soft-cliff coastline of this natural wonder and tumble down to the beach below, according to a 2016 report. What’s to blame for the accelerated erosion? The research team suggests thinning cliff-front beaches play a role. The dynamic is exacerbated by rising sea levels and increased storm intensity due to global warming.

If you go: Hike the trails that wander surprisingly close to the cliff edge. From the top you’ll see the nearby ferries crossing between England and France. You can also view this natural wonder from below on a boat tour.

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Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The only living thing visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is a true natural wonder—the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, stretching 1,240 miles along Australia’s northeast coast. More than 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish live here. But by the end of the century, this World Heritage site could be gone. In the past three years, soaring ocean temperatures have caused some of the worst bleaching ever observed at the Great Barrier Reef, according to the UNESCO’s 2017 Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Coral Reefs scientific assessment. Greenpeace estimates that nearly a quarter of the reef’s coral died in 2016 alone. UNESCO’s report warns that if business-as-usual emissions continue, this and other reefs on the planet will cease to exist as functioning ecosystems in the next 100 years.

If you go: Take a snorkeling tour to see the annual coral spawning, or the large green turtle, which is threatened with extinction. Humpback whales migrate through these waters from June through October.

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The Dead Sea, Israel

Since ancient times, the Dead Sea has been a place of healing and relaxation, where people come to float in therapeutic, super-buoyant waters that are more than eight times saltier than the ocean. Some experts believe this natural wonder could disappear completely within the next hundred years. Water levels are dropping at a rate of about three feet per year, and have fallen more than 82 feet since the 1970s according to the World Wildlife Fund. The waters that used to lap near the doorstep of resorts are now a mile in the distance—with thousands of massive sinkholes in between. A big part of the problem is that the inflow from this lake’s main tributary, the Jordan River, has been reduced to only five percent of the original volume. Bordering countries Israel and Jordan siphon the water for drinking, agriculture, and mineral mining.

If you go: Cover yourself in the mineral-rich mud and let the water (30 percent salt) buoy you. There’s no way to sink even if you try.

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Islands of the Maldives

Off the southern coast of India, this tropical nation of 26 atolls and more than 1,000 coral islands is known for its white powder beaches, coral reefs, and unrivaled luxury. For now. The low-lying islands of the Maldives are slowly being swallowed up by rising sea levels. As carbon emissions increase and ice sheets melt, rising sea levels have begun to submerge this beautiful natural wonder, whose highest point is only eight feet above the water. Maldivians live with the constant danger of being forced to evacuate their homeland, writes Trevor Greene in his book There Is No Planet B: Promise And Peril On Our Warming World. He says the nation could be reduced to a network of “interesting new reefs” by 2112. The die-off of coral reefs that supply food and income for islanders may happen even sooner.

If you go: Take a charter on a dhoni (pole-and-line fishing boat) and learn how pole-and-line fishing sustains healthy fish stocks that are wiped out by net fishing.

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Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, India and Bangladesh

Where India’s Ganges River spills into the Bay of Bengal lies a tidal delta swamp with endless labyrinths of river channels and the world’s largest mangrove forest. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a rich ecosystem with exceptional biodiversity. Numerous endangered species, including the Royal Bengal Tiger and Ganges River Dolphin, breed in the Sundarbans. Climate change is now threatening this natural wonder. According to a 2016 study by World Bank Group, the most significant challenge is increased saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels. Tidal surges are so dramatic (up to 24 feet high) that up to a third of the Sundarbans get submerged every day, creating an ecosystem in which the mangroves aren’t getting enough fresh water. Other threats include increasingly intense cyclones, illegal hunting, harvesting of mangrove timber, and agricultural encroachment.

If you go: Track tigers on a boat trip through the narrow river channels of this natural wonder. Even if you don’t spot one, you’ll likely see wild boar, monkeys, and reptiles. Multi-day tours depart from Khulna in Bangladesh.

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Polar bears and walrus depend on the Arctic’s sea ice for hunting grounds. The rest of the earth depends on the ice and permafrost to act as a global “air conditioner” to regulate climate. But the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, according to Dan Ritzman from the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. He says the effects can easily be seen in northeast Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the most biodiverse place in the Arctic Circle and the calving grounds for the Porcupine Caribou herd. There’s less water now and sea ice is disappearing. At the same time, oil drilling is pushing in, with the newest expansion only about 12 miles from the edge of the refuge.

If you go: The Sierra Club recommends visiting the refuge’s Aichilik River delta in mid-June to see the caribou and sea ice. An alternative: World Wildlife Fund and Natural Habitat Adventures offer polar bear expeditions in Churchill, Manitoba.

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Jamie Moore is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel. Her articles have appeared on USA Today, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, and WestJet.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Miscellany Photography Travel Technology

Every Day is a Vacation with These Free Phone Wallpapers


Spark your vacation dreams with these gorgeous custom wallpapers of your favorite destinations. Download your favorites for inspiration every time you reach for your phone. After all, every day can’t be a vacation day, but you can bring a little vacation into your everyday.

Beach Dreams

Download: Palm Trees | Beach Day | Bungalow Sunset

European Adventures

Download: Madrid | Amalfi Coast | Santorini

City Lights

Download: Shanghai | San Francisco | New York City

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Categories
Photography Travel Technology

Osmo Action Review: Why the Front-Facing Screen Changes the Game for Travelers


The latest product from DJI, the makers of drones like the Mavic Air and stabilizers like the Osmo Mobile, is the Osmo Action, the newest action camera to hit the market. At first glance, the Osmo Action bears a striking resemblance to GoPro’s Hero series, but there’s one major difference that sets it apart to the long-running industry favorite—the front-facing screen.

Price and where to buy it: $349 on the DJI Website.

For travelers, this is a game-changer—and not just for your selfie game. Personally, one of my biggest frustrations when using action cameras in the past was that I could never be exactly sure what I was shooting when I positioned the camera to film myself.

So it’s no surprise that when I took the Osmo Action out for a test ride, I found the front-facing screen to be my favorite feature. Not only was it useful for framing group shots that captured the background, but it was also great for confidently framing any more creative shots, like when I needed to place the camera at the bottom of my bicycle basket. When everything was in place, I flipped the screen with ease to make sure I was getting the frame I wanted. With travel photography, you’re not always going to have a tripod handy when the moment strikes, and oftentimes you have to make do with what you have on hand. The Osmo Action is a great tool for travel photographers who need to react quickly and capture unique shots with confidence.

In addition to its full-color front-screen, the Osmo Action is a sturdy piece of equipment with a standard action camera M.O. It’s constructed to withstand drops as high as five feet, water depths as deep as 36 feet (without the underwater casing), and temperatures as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The battery life will last anywhere between one to two hours depending on which settings you’re using, but note that shooting in 4K with stabilization will drain your battery power more quickly. With its quick-switch controls, high image quality, and stellar RockSteady stabilization, the Osmo Action is a top-tier investment for travel photography.

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How the Osmo Action Rates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. For those who have used a similar type of camera before, the Osmo Action is user-friendly with a touch-screen that makes it easy to quickly switch between settings. The screen visibility was also noticeably good in direct sunlight.
  • Value: 9/10. A little more expensive than GoPro’s most basic models, but still cheaper than their best model, the Osmo Action isn’t quite a steal, but it’s a good value for a camera of this caliber.
  • Portability: 10/10. It was a breeze to carry this around, and I was happy with how quickly the camera turned on.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. You’ll get professional-grade footage and photos with this, with a lot of room for customization. Plus, your selfie buddies will love being able to see themselves in the front-facing screen.

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Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com

Categories
Photography Travel Technology

Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 VI Review: A Compact Camera That Will Crush Your Smartphone


It’s a dilemma for many travelers: You want a better photo than you can take with your smartphone, but you don’t want to lug around a big camera. Sony’s Cyber-Shot RX100 VI solves your problem by putting a high-quality camera into a tiny, pocket-sized package.

Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 VI Review:

Price and Where to Buy: Buy the camera on Amazon for $1,198.

[st_content_ad]How the Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 VI Rates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. There’s a saying that the best camera is the one that you have with you, and that’s true especially while traveling. If you have to carry around a bulky camera or fiddle with a bunch of equipment, you might miss your shot completely. The Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 VI allows you to point and shoot quickly and easily. This is a great camera for amateur photographers, as it has a very fast autofocus and great auto settings that allow you to just press a button and take a great photo. If you’re a more experienced shutterbug, there are lots of features to experiment with, like Advanced Eye AF (a portrait mode setting that focuses on your subject’s eyes), Touch Focus (which allows you to set the focus by touching the monitor), and AF/AE tracking (a continuous shooting mode that can capture up to 24 frames per second).
  • Value: 8/10. The number of features that you get in such a small package make this camera worth the price tag. The RX100 VI has a high-resolution zoom lens that retracts flat when not in use. It shoots photos in 10.1 megapixels and movies in 4K HDR.
  • Durability: 8/10. The camera has a built-in shutter that protects the lens, and the flash pops back inside the camera when not in use, keeping it safe. I tested this camera in very cold conditions, and it held up well (including the battery life).
  • Portability: 10/10. The camera is 4″ x 2.37″ x 1.68″ and weighs just 10.7 ounces, including the battery and memory card. 
  • Does it Work?: 10/10. I captured crisp, clear, and vibrant images with this camera. It was very easy to use and fit into a pocket, so I didn’t mind carrying it around everywhere I went.

Final Verdict: Upgrade your travel pictures without adding a big camera with the Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 VI.

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Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

Categories
Active Travel Photography

Travel Photography Tips from a Pro


A beautiful destination deserves your very best photographic efforts. If you have plateaued at point-and-shoot but are ready to take your photography to the next level, it’s time to enlist the help of a professional. I reached out to award-winning professional photographer and Nikon ambassador Deborah Sandidge for her best travel photography tips.

It turns out that it’s not just about ISOs and F stops (though it’s about that, too)—becoming a better travel photographer also requires packing strategically, doing advance research, and conceptualizing your shots. It can also mean engaging with your surroundings in ways that will both make your photographs better and give you a deeper, more authentic experience.

Read on for tips, tricks, and advice from Sandidge about taking better travel photographs.

SmarterTravel: What are your top photography tips for upping your game and taking great pictures while traveling?

Sandidge: Research the areas where you plan to travel, and don’t hesitate to find a local guide or ask locals for their opinions. Find your favorite locations and the best time of day to arrive at your chosen destinations by using Google, Google Earth, and Maps, and local apps like Google Trips that will tell you if there are any activities, local events, or festivals that are happening during the time of your visit. Find out when sunrises and sunsets will occur. Plan to be at a fantastic location at the most beautiful time of day. Shooting during this time with dramatic light will help you photograph a one-of-a-kind memorable “hero” shot.

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If you have harsh light, then use it to your advantage to capture dramatic shadows or silhouettes. This can often lead to very dramatic imagery. Overcast conditions are generally great for soft light—try filling the frame with the subject to avoid an empty sky.

If I’m in a dynamic city like Ho Chi Minh City, I like to have several lenses available to capture all the diverse and never-ending action. I had the most fun capturing the sheer number of motorbikes in the city. Hundreds of scooters carry entire families, or deliveries—it’s a major form of transportation and fascinating to see and photograph. Almost anything can be transported on a scooter. Short video clips give the viewer an idea of how widely this form of transportation is used. A mid-range zoom is great for capturing the action.

Take time to shop markets. They [are] fun to wander through and offer amazing color and vibrancy for images. Take an “establishing shot” with a great subject and then move in for the detail shots. This is where a telephoto zoom allows you to collect photos from near and far and zoom in for detail and color abstract shots. A mid-range zoom is great for capturing the action of many shots from 24mm to 70mm. A zoom lens is perfect for discreet photos and for capturing detail shots.

Even a few seconds of video capturing motion can be a lot of fun and enrich … your experience.

To make your low light shots perfectly sharp, stabilize your images by using a tripod or a simple device such as a Platypod and a cable release. Although handheld shots generally work fine during the day, you may need to stabilize your shot in low light or for any creative or slow shutter use during the day.

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Night can be full of fantastic color and a wonderful time to create photographs. If you can take a boat tour, increase your ISO to help stabilize your shots. Colorfully lit neon sails make for exciting imagery, and being out on the river gives you a beautiful vantage point of the city at night.

SmarterTravel: What’s the most underused-by-amateurs photography technique or trick? 

Sandidge: Move past the snapshot—it’s very easy to make snapshots in any beautiful location. It’s meaningful if you want to move past the snapshot to create images with impact. This can be accomplished by working with ideas that will enhance your photos. For starters, convey a sense of motion with your imagery by controlling shutter speed. This could be as simple as photographing a person walking in front of an interesting background. Set your shutter speed at about 1/15 of a second so that the person is rendered as slightly blurred as they walk in front of an interesting scene (graffiti wall, beautiful architecture). This same concept can be used for cars moving through the scene in low light; a shutter speed of several seconds or more creates beautiful streaks of light from passing cars, illustrating a unique sense of motion.

Think about water subjects such as fountains or waterfalls––far more interesting subjects to either imply motion with a slow shutter (you can use a polarizer to do this), or to completely freeze the action using a fast shutter speed. Something magical happens with an interesting choice in shutter speed.

SmarterTravel: How would you help amateur travel photographers who struggle to capture the beauty they’re seeing around them?

Sandidge: Capturing the beauty can be overwhelming as there is so much to take in. Relax. Start with the goal shots but be entirely flexible. You might have an idea of what to shoot, but be open to anything interesting that may come up and change your plans. Depending on light conditions, work with ideas that incorporate interesting light. Narrowing your aperture to capture pretty sunbursts in your images on a clear day will add sparkle and drama to your photographs. Try this with unique architecture, or through tall trees. Work with an idea [and] keep a checklist of concepts to use with your photography. A goal list goes a long way.

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SmarterTravel: What are some key things to avoid when taking photos?

Sandidge: Choose your subjects wisely. Taking 10 shots of the same scene won’t make it any better; instead, move around, change your position, look for elevated positions or shots with different perspectives. Don’t shoot where it is not permitted, or if someone asks you not to. Some subjects are reverent, and as a good traveler and photographer, respect the local customs and requests. If you are entering a temple, church, or cathedral, make sure to wear the proper attire to show respect. If photography is not permitted, enjoy the experience and respect the wishes of [the] local culture.

SmarterTravel: What are some tips for being respectful of people when taking photos at a market or in a crowd?

Sandidge: I’m very sensitive about taking pictures of people when traveling. Some people find it offensive and some people find it intensely flattering. Establishing rapport with your subject is helpful, plus leads to better photographs. People like it if you show them how you photographed them, and share why you feel it’s important or flattering. People like to be shown at their best, so show them you can do this and that you are happy to provide a photograph via email. Avoid photos that may cast your subject in a negative way. People may request compensation for their images. This is best accomplished through your travel guide as cash may not be the most beneficial to contribute. A donation through other means may be preferable, and this is where a local guide can help. A long lens can be used for candid shots; however, if you catch the subject’s eye, smile at them, and point to your camera [to let them give permission]. This technique is especially helpful where there are language barriers. People may not notice a long lens when you are shooting from a distance, but if they show their displeasure, stop. If you’d like to photograph children, please ask permission from a parent. I was rewarded by a kiss on the cheek from a child who was thrilled I chose her to take a picture of. Those beautiful moments may end up being your most memorable.

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SmarterTravel: Any tips for protecting your camera without adding a lot of bulk to a day pack?

Sandidge: Keep it simple, keep it safe, and keep your camera kit as light as possible. Carry what you will need for the excursion. A mirrorless camera such as the Nikon Z7 saves you quite a bit of weight, and the camera and lenses are lighter, allowing you to carry what you need without the added bulk. If you use something like a mid-range zoom lens, the 24-70mm lens for example, you’ll have the benefit of wide-angle but also 70mm range which can help with a variety of shots. Keep a lens blower and microfiber cloths handy to keep lenses clean. I much prefer a backpack with an extra zippered compartment on top so I can throw in a light jacket, a scarf, or even an extra lens. A 50mm lens and a fisheye can add a lot to your creative arsenal, and the lenses are fairly light and fast. The right kit is essential. Tried and true is most important; make sure to test any new bag to make sure it fits you well before you commit it to travel.

Here are 10 additional tips for taking better photographs:

  • Change your perspective: Shoot low or look for a high vantage point
  • Convey a sense of motion with your photograph, using a neutral density filter to slow [the] action
  • [To] create an establishing shot, use a wide-angle lens and capture unique foreground elements, narrowing the aperture to f/16
  • [To] isolate the subject, use a zoom lens with a wide aperture such as f/5.6
  • Vary your lenses; a 50mm lens used wide open can create a painterly look with backgrounds
  • Seek patterns and repetition of shape, color, light, and shadows; find diagonal flow to avoid static compositions
  • Look for colorful reflections in bodies of water, shiny cars and windshields, or even puddles
  • Shoot both horizontal and vertical versions of your composition
  • Carry a fast lens (f/1.8 or similar) for handheld low-light and night shooting
  • Carry a tripod, or use a Platypod, which is a flat tripod that you can attach your own ball head to
  • Don’t forget time-lapse and video; even short clips will add interest to your visual narrative

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Christine Sarkis is always looking for more travel photography tips. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Categories
Photography Travel Technology

Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Review: The Perfect Camera for Cruises


The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 has a powerful telephoto lens that makes it the perfect camera for cruises, wildlife photography, or any moments you want to capture up close.

I tested out this camera on a cruise, and was able to capture clear images onshore from the deck.

As an example, from the top deck of the ship, I saw the scene below and was able to zoom in on a far-away detail (the penguin) and still capture a clear image:
Nikon coolpix 1000 photo example

Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Review:

Price and Where to Buy: The camera is available on Amazon or Nikon’s website for $999.

[st_content_ad]How the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Rates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. The powerful zoom lens allows you to take photos from far away, so you can get clear images of things like wildlife without getting too close. The camera also has built-in VR image stabilization, so you can take clear and steady video in 4K Ultra HD. It has built-in Wi-Fi, so you can share your photos easily to your phone.
  • Value: 7/10. Although it’s expensive, a camera with this type of zoom lens is worth the price for serious photographers.
  • Durability: 8/10. Like any camera, you’ll need to handle this carefully, but it held up well in extreme cold temperatures and withstood long travel days.
  • Portability: 9/10. The COOLPIX P1000 is surprisingly lightweight. 
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. I had so many people come up to me on the cruise to ask about this camera, including professional photographers. Plus, I was able to get many cool images while shooting with the COOLPIX P1000.

Final Verdict: Get the best close-up shots on your next trip with the Nikon COOLPIX P1000.

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Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.