I’ve been traveling a lot lately and have many stories and pictures to share since I last posted. I’ve had adventures in quite varied places including the backroads of Missouri on the Katy Bike Trail, around central Italy, and a few spots right here in Minneapolis (more on those soon). Every time I return from a trip, I pour over my photos, delete the junk, crop and perfect the good pics and relive my experiences in the process.
I use these photos in my blog and sell them as part of article packages or slide shows, but I take pictures on the fly, more like a tourist than a professional photographer who camps out for several days to get the best light. I’m too small to lug all that equipment–several cameras, lenses and a tripod and more. Plus, I’d rather pay attention to the experience than gadgetry.
That’s why I try to keep a few basic ideas in mind to elevate my photos several notches above “snapshot.” Sherry Ott, a photographer and travel writer who as far as I can tell is completely nomadic, which fascinates me, just posted a great summary of what to keep in mind while taking pictures as a traveler. On her blog, Ottsworld, she says, it’s not about the equipment, its about composition. In fact, many of the travel writers I know take great pictures with their iPhones, though I have to say a good digital SLR makes a difference.
I’m sharing a link from her blog, my fellow travelers, for your own use and inspiration: How to Take Better Vacation Pictures. No matter what your skill level, her tips are a great reminder that it just takes a little extra thought to compose more satisfying photos.
And please share any tips you have with the rest of us by commenting here.
The NASCAR season kicked off last weekend. It consists of 36 races, running February to November. I’m no racing aficionado, but I sure had a good time at the Daytona 500 on Sunday. I was able to take a “hot lap” of the track at 110 miles per hour.
Detroit has long suffered from urban blight and a gained a reputation as a mecca for “ruin porn.” But the city is making an impressive comeback and has enough new construction projects, new residents and new sports facilities in the works to make most cities envious.
The city still has a long way to go. There are vast swaths of vacant buildings and open land where structures have been torn down. But, talk about making lemonade when life gives you lemons….The city’s many vacant buildings and storefronts have made Detroit a massive canvas for world-renowned street artists, attracting tourists who love street art and graffiti from around the world.
One of the most famous street art locations in Detroit is the once-thriving two-block area of the city’s east side known as the Heidelberg Project constructed by artist Tyree Guyton. It’s an outdoor art experience you wouldn’t believe–funny, sad and haunting. His goal, to make people pay attention to the blight rather than avoiding it. You can read about it and Detroit’s other street art and graffiti projects in the terrific book Canvas Detroitthat I picked up on my recent visit there. In that book Guyton says, “My experiences have granted me knowledge of how to create art and how to see beauty in everything that exists.” Take a look:
This week’s photo challenge is express yourself. While some call it vandalism, there’s no more in-your-face, larger than life form of self-expression than graffiti. For the past 20 years, the mecca of that gritty urban art form has been 5 Pointz, a dilapidated factory complex in Queens, New York City.
Founded as the Phun Phactory in 1993, it was designed as a place for street artists to legally practice their craft. Here, aerosol-can Picassos made the derelict buildings beautiful and gained worldwide fame.
Sadly, the buildings were recently demolished to make way for yet more shiny high-rise apartment buildings.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous monuments in the world, which means it has
been photographed at every possible angle and every time of day since construction began in 1887. But I’m not so interested in telling you about the Eiffel Tower as I am in letting you know about an an app that that I’ve had great fun playing with, Waterlogue, which turns photos into some pretty cool watercolor painting-like images. It works on any Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that is running iOS version 7 or great. You download a photo, and apply one of Waterlogue’s filters. And, Voila!
As a result, my photo, which is just like those that millions of other tourists have taken, now looks a little different. Give it a try. There are some serious crafty possibilities.
The hotels and other buildings in the South Beach art deco district of Miami Beach, Florida, get all the attention. But if you’re there, you should lift your head up from your beach chair and take notice of the collection of whimsical and funky lifeguard stations that extends from the jetty at South Point to 74th Street. If you can’t make it to South Beach, take a look at photographer and former newspaper journalist Susan Russell’s book, aptly titled South Beach Life Guard Stations to see what I’m talking about.
While there have been elevated lifeguard stations here almost since the area became a resort, they weren’t so interesting until Hurricane Andrew swept most of them away in 1992. They were rebuilt with panache typical of South Beach. They serve a very practical purpose for lifeguards, but also make great landmarks when you stroll the beach and an excellent place to meet for beach yoga at sunrise. Here are a few of more….
Ely, Minnesota (five hours north of Minneapolis), is home to the hardest of hardcore outdoorspeople—polar explorers Will Steger, Paul Schurke and Anne Bancroft, to name a few. From Ely, you can launch a dogsledding trip in winter or a multi-week canoe trip through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in summer. Budget Travel magazine named Ely “The Coolest Small Town in America” last year. They said, “It says a lot about a town when there are more wildlife centers (two) than Wal-Marts (zero), and more canoe and fishing outfitters (27) than, well, anything else. In Ely, you’re never more than a step away from the wilderness.” But what if you’re made of less hardy stuff or you’re traveling with people for whom “wilderness” means that the mall is a 15-minute drive?
Ely offers plenty of opportunities for activity and a healthy dose of nature, even for outdoor novices or those who may not be physically able tackle portaging canoes or rugged hikes. On a trip last weekend, we hit the Harvest Moon Festival, complete with
crafty artisans; historic reenactors of the early settlers and trappers of the area, the voyageurs; and a lumberjack show—a little hokey, but entertaining.
My favorite comment came from one of the “voyageurs” who was cooking up some sort of stew in a giant cast iron post. I asked what he was
cooking and he said, “Camp Wander. If it wanders into camp, we cook it.”
Ely is home to the International Wolf Center, the North American Bear Center, and some tasty restaurants such as the Chocolate Moose. You can buy great sweaters and of course mukluks at Steger Mukluk. For book lovers, there’s a nice bookstore upstairs at Piragis Northwoods Company.
One of my favorite stops in town is the Brandenburg Gallery, where you can see and buy
photos from acclaimed outdoor photographer and Ely resident, Jim Brandenburg. His photography captures the spirit and the unusual beauty of the wilderness. Check out his web site to see his stunning photos and a video, and click on this Minnesota Department of Natural Resources link for a video that features his fall photos.
On our recent trip, in lieu of a tent, we opted for a cozy cabin at Timber Trail Lodge where you can canoe, fish, or simply ponder the lake and its solitude from the dock. Famed environmentalist, author and Ely resident Sigurd Olson said
Wilderness is a spiritual necessity. An antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium. I have found that people go to the wilderness for many things, but the most important of these is perspective. They may think they go for the fishing or the scenery or companionship, but in reality it is something far deeper. They go to the wilderness for the good of their souls.
Olson was instrumental in the preservation of millions of acres of wilderness in Alaska and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. He helped establish Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Point Reyes National Seashore in California and helped draft the Wilderness Act of 1964. Looking for a little wilderness inspiration? Read his books The Singing Wilderness, Listening Point, The Lonely Land and others.
Finally, talk about “budget travel”–in Ely and the surrounding wilderness, the most amazing sights are free. Lay on your back on the dock at night and you’ll see a show of stars that you can’t see amid the lights of a city. And, if you’re lucky, you may see an even more spectacular show—the Northern Lights. We saw another amazing, though dismaying, display of
nature, the huge Pagami Creek wildfire in the Boundary Waters, which is now so big that the smoke is visible as far away as Chicago. Started by lightning two weeks ago, it has burned through over 100,000 acres. Hopefully, the frost and sleet in the next few days will slow its spread.
For more northern Minnesota-inspired reading look for:
Tim O’Brien- In the Lake of the Woods
Will Weaver – Red Earth, White Earth, The Last Hunter: an American Family Album, and of the short story “A Gravestone Made of Wheat,” which was made into the movie Sweet Land.
Catherine Holm- My Heart is a Mountain: Tales of Magic and the Land
William Kent Krueger– Vermillion Drift
Travel to the places you read about. Read about the places you travel.