Category Archives: Advice

The top 10 tips I’ve Learned from Minimalists

This lovely post talks about simplifying your life – there are some great ideas in this article about how you can minimise your wardrobe – great advice for would be travellers and weekend escapees ūüôā

theextraordinarysimplelife

tiny-house-2

I’m not going to covet other minimalists’ lives anymore.

I don’t travel the world with a single backpack.

I haven’t packed up my family to travel across the country in an RV for a year.

I am not a single woman with a futon, a suitcase and a laptop.

I didn‚Äôt choose 600 square feet of dwelling space with a hobby farm ‚Äėround back.

YET, I adore reading about these amazing people and their even more intriguing journeys toward transformation. In perusing books and blogposts, these characters seem like old friends. We’re all rooting for them. Their triumphs and courageous leaps of faith provide the inspiration for our own stories. However, through all this story following, I have found there is not one formula for choosing a simple life…it is not a one-size-fits all t-shirt. No matter what our life looks like, I do believe each and every one of these…

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Create a Great Blog

People often ask us for hints about how to create a blog which has a good following. Online engagement is a topic I write about on my personal site at www.traceybenson.com, but thought it might be useful to share some tips with travel bloggers.

Here are our top hints:

  • Start off with a free blog from blogger.com or wordpress.com if you have never created a blog before. Also tumblr.com can be used to create blogs. We prefer WordPress as it is also a robust CMS (Content Management System) but that is a different topic!
  • Choose a theme that suits your topic – do a search on other blogs that have related topics.
  • Before you post your first article, make sure you have created an “About” page to share with readers who you are and why you blog. It is also good to have a photo on your About page.
  • Use categories and tags on your posts. Our rule of thumb is no more than three categories, but lots of tags.
  • Make sure you optimise your images. We try to avoid posting images that are over 1200 pixels wide.
  • Correctly attribute your images, put a copyright symbol if they are yours – ¬©. If you have borrowed them than make sure you have permission, and use the correct attribution – either a ¬© or a creative commons (CC) license Cc.logo.circle.svg. We sometimes use images from Flickr Commons which are mostly royalty free, but we always give details of where the image comes from (its provenance).
  • Watermark your photos as a safe guard. It won’t stop unscrupulous people from taking them, but it might make them think twice. Think of it like the ‘video surveillance’ signs people put on their front gate, to put off intruders.
  • Make sure you caption your images and provide ‘alt text’ to make your posts more accessible.
  • Posts and pages – people often get confused about the difference between these. Pages are designed for static content that does not change, like your ‘About’ page. Posts are your articles which is your new and evolving content – the dynamic area of your site.
  • Use the “Publicize” feature so you can automatically promote new posts to your social media channels.
  • Engage with other bloggers – if people like and follow you, then return the complement! Drop in on their blog, have a look, thank them and give a complement if you like what they are doing.
  • If you have more than one blog then reblogging is a good way for cross promoting your content, you might even pick up some new followers. If you want to reblog someone else’s post, it is good etiquette to ask the blogger first. They might also return the favour, which is a great complement.
  • Blog regularly – be consistent – if you tell your readers you post every week – stick to it! It is also good to contribute more posts in the first three months, so you can build your community.
  • Have fun! Blogging is about sharing what you love to do with the world ūüôā

If we have missed something (I am sure we have), let us know and we will add it to the list.

Digital Travel Photography

Text: 2014© Garry Benson 

Discovering your personal vision

 

Digital Travel Photography with Garry Benson
Digital Travel Photography with Garry Benson

I first picked up a camera at the age of seven, and that’s over fifty years ago. To say the least, technology has changed. Books in my personal library that deal with equipment from ten or more years ago have very little bearing on today’s automated digital cameras, lenses and flashes.

Yes, the fundamentals of setting exposures via shutter, lens aperture and ISO speeds are still relevant, but technology has provided us with instant feedback and hopefully a new way of thinking about making our images better. Moreover, sophisticated software programs like Photoshop have allowed photographers to finish their images as they had envisioned it in their mind’s eye.

However, there is one constant that doesn’t change but rather evolves and that is personal vision. I loosely describe personal vision as the manner in which each of us uniquely sees a scene photographically. Books dealing with good composition will stand the test of time no matter what type of technological wonder is used as a capturing device. This is true because travel photography is all about capturing light – great light! What means we use to capture it (film or digital) is really irrelevant.

If an image is great, it will stand the test of time regardless of what medium was used to record it. It’s the image itself that speaks to the hearts and minds of the viewer. But before we head off into the very individualistic area of what makes a great image, let’s start with some basics.

That Magic Moment
One of the most difficult parts of digital photography that new users have trouble getting used to is the inevitable time delay that occurs between pushing the button on the camera and capturing the picture.

Digital cameras have more to do in preparing to take a photo than film cameras. Like film cameras, they have to focus the lens. However, they also have to take a pre-exposure to get proper colour balance!

The good news is that they are able to achieve better exposed, better colour balanced and in many cases better focused images than film cameras. The bad news is that this takes a fraction of a second and could cause you to miss a great picture.

What can you do about it? There are a couple of approaches that are very effective.

The simplest is to just push the shutter button down half way as you’re waiting for the action to develop. Keep it there until you are ready to shoot, and then press the rest of the way.

Pressing half way signals the camera to immediately choose focus, color balance, and exposure. The subsequent delay when you take your shot is now quite small, comparable to film cameras. When I am shooting I keep the shutter button half depressed, and I get great shots.

A second approach is to switch to manual exposure and focus. If lighting is stable, as it is indoors, this works rather well. Most digital cameras have tremendous depth of field (sometimes too much) so focus is not critical but sometimes you want to have a very small depth of field to emphasise the subject. Using a telephoto lens will often achieve this result, but watch out for distracting backgrounds.

Set your focus for a typical distance, and you will probably be happy with the results. If this is an indoor sporting event, you will want the shutter speed as high as possible, so choose maximum aperture and adjust shutter speed for proper exposure.

Background
That’s just a short intro to this subject – Tracey has asked me to write a regular column about travel photography & I’ll be using some of my images as examples. I was trained as a cinematographer after leaving school at 15 to take up the apprenticeship. Part of my training was to load rolls of 35mm B&W film from a 30mm roll and take lots of shots every weekend. I then had to bring the proof sheets back to work on the Monday and the whole staff would critique my shots. When I finally became a pro cinematographer shooting newsreels on 35mm for Cinesound, I received back a shot by shot ‘rip’ sheet that gave feedback on each shot, how much film I used and how much I wasted. I soon learnt a fair bit about composition and story telling.

To close, a few hints about travelling with cameras. I take two cameras with me on trips – depending on the location a small pocket size camera (like the Lumix DMZ-TS5) that’s also water & shock proof (it does rain a lot in SE Asia and London!). I also take either a Nikon D300 series with a good long lens or a Lumix FZ150 . The Lumix has a Leica lens with a range of 24-600mm but it doesn’t poke out about a metre from my body and can do a really superb job of photographing things like full moon (from a tripod).

Full Moon by Garry Benson
Full Moon by Garry Benson

So must I look like a photographer to local thieves? I try not too.

  • I carry my camera inside my jacket with the strap around my neck – just around my shoulder it’s easy to snatch.
  • Keep your gear in something like a backpack but don’t advertise by having big Nikon or Canon signs all over it.
  • Close the top of your case between shots – sometimes a bicycle lock is handy.
  • When I put my photo case down I put my foot through the carry strap.
  • ¬†I always walk on the building side of the footpath with the camera and/or case on that side to avoid motorcycle thieves.
  • I store the memory cards + small (500gb) external drives in the room or hotel safe after backing up to either my laptop or the Cloud.

So that’s the first column. In future articles I’ll give lots of practical hints from my experiences as a photojournalist & cinematographer – that ‘may’ help you take better travel images. Any feedback on the above is welcome – you can teach an old dog (me) new tricks!

Centre of Cappadocia: √úrg√ľp

In October 2013, we returned to Cappadocia, this time staying in √úrg√ľp, one of the larger towns in Cappadocia. √úrg√ľp is very picturesque, with cave hotels dotted around the hills leading into town, making it a great example of the fascinating and unique character of the region.

There is also lots of shopping, not just tourist shops but also a number of supermarkets. Our favorite supermarket for price was Bim, it is popular all over Turkey and there are two in √úrg√ľp. There is also an active nightlife for the young and restless. It is also great place to stay if you want to travel around the other towns in the region; with a bus depot with regular trips to other popular tourist sites.

√úrg√ľp
√úrg√ľp

TripAdvisor states that¬†√úrg√ľp is Cappadocia region’s most upscale and contemporary tourist destination, that it “has a number of lovely hotels, many built in and around centuries-old cave dwellings. The city and its surrounding area are known for their mysterious fairy chimneys, early Christian rock churches and fine vineyards. A mix of ancient and modern, Urgup is a center for traditional handmade carpets, but also has a lively nightlife. Hot air ballooning is very popular, and a fantastic way to see the area’s beauty from above.”

On this trip, we were fortunate that a friend organised some accommodation for us at the Otel Mustafa. The tariff included both breakfast and dinner, which meant we did not have to worry about meals while we were there. It is not a cave hotel, and if it is your first time in Cappadocia, I recommend you stay in a cave hotel for at least one night. This hotel suited us though, we enjoyed the walk into town (about 15 minutes) and the room was large and comfortable. The foyer and dining room are opulent, with a very Turkish sense of interior design, plenty of marble, rich colours, furnishings with luxuriant textures, sumptuous patterning and plenty of gold leaf. There was also a gift shop with lots of typical Turkish arts and crafts, jewellery and stained glass lamps. The prices in the shop though are very typical of large hotels in Turkey – about three times what you will pay in the local shops and markets.

We have some favorite places in √úrg√ľp that we like to hang out. Firstly, we love Sultan Mehmet’s shop, and mentioned it on our first trip in 2011 when we did an artist residency at Babayan Culture House. One of the owners Sule, speaks very good English and she is very helpful about where to find things in town. Her shop has everything from antiques, carpets, to jewellery and framed artworks. Her husband Mehmet¬† speaks French, which must be useful for the many French tourists who travel to Cappadocia.

If you are into the Turkish bathing culture, there is a hamam in √úrg√ľp, it is mixed men and women’s bath, with the exception of Saturday morning when it is women’s only. If you prefer a hamam with separate baths, then I recommend going to G√∂reme. It is a bit more expensive but well set up for tourists, has a sauna and a nice recovery area. When you tip the women, you tip all of them; conversely the men tip their masseuse individually. This is done by putting your tips in a little post box in the foyer of the hamam. It is recommended to tip at a hamam – 10 or 20 percent.

√úrg√ľp Museum
This is a great place to go, if you want to get an idea of the rich and diverse cultural history of Cappadocia. The museum was opened in 1971, and displays specimens from Prehistorical, Ancient Bronze Age, Hittite, Frig, Persia, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantium and Ottoman ages. There are also period pieces of art from areas surrounding √úrg√ľp as well as fossil samples and an ethnographic section for regional clothes, furniture and guns at the museum.

Buses
Earlier, I mentioned that √úrg√ľp has a bus depot that can take you to the other villages and centres in the region. Buses run every 1/2 hour to Nevsehir, every 2 hours to Avanos and G√∂reme and every hour to Kayseri. This article has lots of timetables from Cappadocia to everywhere.

Resources

How to Avoid Jet Lag

One of the things that challenge many travellers is jet lag, particularly over long distances. Unfortunately for us in Australia to see most of the world involves ‘long haul’ travel. It is not uncommon for people even travelling within Australia to be affected by jet lag as you may cross 4 time zones in one flight. For example there is three hours time difference between Sydney and Perth in the summer months. The medical term for jet lag is desynchronosis, which seems apt. I quite like the term discombobulated as well, as that this how you feel – out of synch and out of sorts. Over many long haul flights over the years, I have learnt to manage jet lag to some extent would like to share some of my tips I have learnt along the way.

A definition of jet lag
Jet lag is considered a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is a disruption of the internal body clock. It not only impacts on sleep patterns though, it can have a whole range of other lovely symptoms including anxiety, constipation, diarrhoea, confusion, dehydration, headache, irritability, nausea, sweating, and the list goes on.

How to manage jet lag Рin transit

  • One of the first things we do when we get on a flight, any flight, is we change our watches and devices to the time at the destination. This serves two purposes: we arrive and slot into the daily routine of the destination e.g. knowing what time to catch buses and trains; by changing as soon as we settle in on the flight it saves us a ‘job’ at the other end – it makes life easier.
  • Stay hydrated. Avoid drinking alcohol and too much caffeine on the flight, make sure you drink lots of water. Air conditioning is very dehydrating, particularly on aeroplanes, so keeping hydrated will help you avoid a headache at you arrival destination.
  • Don’t overeat on the flight. Most of the time airline food is pretty awful anyway so we don’t have a problem with this one.
  • Try adjust your sleep time to reflect time time at your destination. If it is 3am on your watch, try and get some sleep. If you can’t sleep then try to relax, listen to some quiet music and meditate.

When you get there

The best thing to do once you arrive is to try and settle in to the new time zone. If you arrive in the morning, grab a good breakfast then get outside and be active. If you are on holidays go out and orient yourself to your new surroundings. If you have to go to a business meeting or conference, try at least to have a walk before you head off to work. If you are lucky enough to be staying in a hotel with a sauna, then make good use of it. A sauna before an evening meal will help you not only have a relaxing dinner (make sure you drink lots of water ), it will also help you get a good night’s sleep.

The sooner you can adapt to your new environment the less chance there will be that you will have the negative side effects of jet lag.

There is an app for that
A friend shared an¬†article with me today, which prompted this¬†post:¬†Can you beat jet lag with a smartphone app?¬†The ¬†Entrain app for iPhones has been developed by¬†mathematicians at the University of Michigan.¬†“Entrain works by helping to regulate the internal body clock through custom schedules of light and dark. The app lets a person know when they should be exposed to the brightest light possible and when they need to be exposed to a dark environment.” Given we are Android users we won’t be checking this app out soon, which calls to mind another post I wrote about app development a while ago.

References

MedicineNet Jet Lag Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, and Prevention (accessed 12 April 2014)