Sunday at the NatGeo Photography Seminar on Light and Color

I always knew my new camera was smarter than me, today at the National Geographic (NatGeo) Traveler Photography Seminar on Light and Color, I learned why.  Today’s session was held in Philadelphia and was complimentary as the previous seminar I attended on The Art of Nature was mired with technical difficulties.  NatGeo Photography received many complaints (not from me – I enjoyed the last seminar) so they sent attendees an apology, a photography book and the next session free.  Their response was beyond generous and I was thrilled to go back to learn more about travel photography. With a new eye, I’m more critical of what I thought was good could have been better in all of the photos below.

Atmospheres Hotel Paris

A bit of quiet before our adventures in Paris at Atmospheres Hotel

So back to my camera, I never understood why on a bright, sunny day, the flash would pop up.  Why did the scene need a flash?  Well, today, in the four hour lecture I learned why and will just let my camera do it’s thing next time and see what happens.  Thankfully, cameras don’t have the GPS voice otherwise it would be snarky (just like my car) when I think I know better.

The Louvre light and dark

The Louvre outside corridor in light and dark

The session today had examples of people and portraits, something I shy away from as I’m not comfortable capturing people quite yet.  So while I understood the concepts being shown, I would have liked to see a few nature examples for it to really click in my head.  One of the first takeaways is to pay attention to the problems and decide how you will eliminate it or keep it in.


For the past two years I’ve had my fancy camera, I’ve been playing with light with good and bad results.  I’m finding that I enjoy the shadows created in the light.  I’m cupping my hand over the viewfinder to block the sunlight and then also crawling on the ground for angles and perspectives that use the light differently (my niece pretended not to know me in Paris when I did this).  This was all before attending the light seminar today.  For a few of the light topics, I felt good about myself, my knowledge and my technique and then I quickly felt like an imbecile recognizing that I’ve become lazy with some features of the camera. I learned black and white with darkroom eons ago and had more decisions to make when composing and shooting film due to the limited number of pictures.  With digital, I haven’t jumped all in – I don’t edit my photos, I play with manual here and there but it has become so much more work after the fact, that I’ve let it go, accepting my photos as they are – rationalizing that I saw it this way so no touch ups required.  Is it better to show what I saw?  or to make it how I wish it was?  Tough questions.

Magic Water Circuit Park Lima

One of my favorite memories of the park – colors, action and shadows

Louvre statue in shadow

Love the statue, love the shadow puppet too

I did smile when she said things get interesting in the rain and in the snow so go outside and see what you find while everyone else is inside.  See how the light changes the shot, how the reflections bounce and play with technique to find the shot your want.  I had many opportunities in Sydney to play in the rain after my few hours chasing the sun.

Sydney Opera House

Each visit, I’m still amazed by the Opera House – it is iconic Sydney know around the world

Sydney Opera House in clouds and rain

Sydney Opera House in clouds and rain


Color can be powerful, passionate and provide personality.  Simple color choices can convey so much and yet we often pass by the opportunity to use color differently in photos especially when affected by changes in light.  For the color part of the session, the vibrant colors of festivals, celebrations and tradition were shown. Examples included group photos (the baseline) and then subsequent photos picking at different parts to illustrate the number of ways to get the right balance of light and color.  A key is knowing the color wheel better with contrasting and complementary colors to help see the photo differently as you compose and frame the shot.

Colorful garden flowers

Layers of colors in the garden add to the photo rather than isolate complementary colors pink/red

Colorful garden of glass at Chihuly

Colorful garden of glass at Chihuly in Seattle

We were also reminded of the absent of color, via black and white as well as infrared.  I wasn’t familiar with infrared photography but was intrigued by the application and will look further into this (I will need to learn photo editing software with this though).


The last topic was the one that had no relevance to me as my camera has a pop up flash, which I rarely use.  Much time was spent on flash and all the accessories that can be used as a secondary source of light.  This was very technical with priority, exposure compensation, zoom and sync.  All concepts I understand but no longer need to worry about with my current camera.  Use of gels and filters were mentioned as well with examples.

Ageing whisky at Jameson

Vivid example of the ageing process at Jameson – let the backlighting work it’s colorful magic


I continue to be impressed by the 1/2 day (4 hour) NatGeo Photography seminars for travelers. I still have so much to learn and see.   The photos shown were pretty amazing – some I liked, others I would have deleted if that was my capture (this is why I’m not the professional), so it’s nice to see that there is value in what I deem unworthy – I need to see better.  A shout out was given to the IPhone and two apps – Hipstamatic and Camera Bag, both of which I’m going to look at later tonight to see how I can enhance my Iphone photo skills.  The seminar generally costs about $110 which I feel is a great value (you can save a few dollars if you find a B&H code online).


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Seattle Day Tour: Wine, Waterfalls and Chocolate

With family in Seattle, I’m running out of new things to do and see on my own when I visit (or at least I think I am).  After the Portland visit, I returned to Seattle this year for a quick two day visit to catch up with friends and family.  The only problem was that said friends and family had work and other commitments so I needed to keep myself busy for one full day until everyone could meet for dinner.  What to do?  After the past six weeks of travel, I should have just slept all day in my cookie cutter beige Sheraton room but where’s the fun in that?  I decided to try my luck with concierge roulette where I ask the concierge for his/her best option for a place and without much research and just go with it.  I don’t do this much (I have control issues) but for my Seattle day tour, that’s how I ended up on the Winery & Waterfall Tour with Customized Tours.

Chateau Ste Michelle red wine

Happiness in a bottle of red at Chateau Ste Michelle

At first, the concierge gave me the line I hear all the time “they don’t book singles, they have a minimum of two” but then called me later in the day to say that others had booked so I could join the tour.  So my six hours would be spent at two wineries, lunch,  Snoqualmie Falls and a stop for chocolate- not a bad way to spend the day especially if you are in Seattle pre/post cruise. The cost was $89 and did not include lunch or wine tasting fees.

The guide picked me up at the hotel and I had to laugh when I met the others as they were practically neighbors as they live in Wilmington, DE and a Philadelphia suburb -one lady was a high school alum (albeit twenty years before me).  So my tour day started off on a good note with Philly folks who had just completed their Alaskan cruise.  On this unusually hot, humid, July day, we had clear skies and a wonderful view of Mt. Rainier as we drove over the floating bridges on the way to the wineries.  Due to a concert at the winery that day, we had to make the wine tastings our first stop rather than the last stop but I’m a champion of alcohol after breakfast (see my Jameson Whisky Experience).

Mt. Rainier view from Seattle

Mt. Rainier view from the floating bridge

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The Melbourne Street Art Tour with Junky

Melbourne, Australia is internationally known for it’s street art, something I didn’t realize until I was researching the city prior to my RTW trip.  I grew up with the destructive graffiti of tagging that littered the streets of Philadelphia in the 70′s and 80′s and that still exists today so I wasn’t sure what to expect on my tour of Melbourne Street Art.  To say I was surprised is an understatement.

Melbourne Street Art

This made me smile – I wonder if it is a self portrait?

I would meet Daniel Lynch, AKA Junky Projects, a local artist using junk to create his art (the ultimate recycler).  Junky was the Melbourne Street Art guide and he would navigate the laneways, arcades and alleys to introduce our small group of six to the pulse of the city through it’s street art.  Our tour would last three hours and end at Blender Studios where we would have a drink (beer or wine) and meet resident artists working in their studios. The cost was $69 AUS.

Melbourne Street Art

At the end of the tour near Blender Studios is this artwork – so different from the works on the tour – so many techniques used to create this

Junky explained the evolution of graffiti (Philadelphia played a huge part in this) to the street art that we see today around the world.  With the documentary “Exit through the Gift Shop” a huge spotlight (an Academy Award nomination will do that) was shined upon street artists to those of us who had no clue about this art movement.  Cities began to invite street artists to create on their walls in an effort to bring tourists but the irony is that local graffiti laws still exist basically saying tagging bad, street art good.  An example is Melbourne’s graffiti law with it’s rules, regulations and permits needed.

Melbourne Street Art Junky Projects

Junky explaining the detail in the street art creation

Melbourne Street Art

Tagging the walls of Melbourne with street art

Our first stop was the popular, Hosier Lane, across from Federation Square.  I wasn’t sure sure where to look first as it was awash in the color and the art was everywhere.  As luck would have it, two artists we working on their walls so we stopped to talk to them about their work in progress.

Hosier Lane Melbourne Street Art

Creating his art on Hosier Lane in Melbourne

Hosier Lane Melbourne Street Art

Street Art reservation on Hosier Lane

Melbourne Street Art Hosier Lane

A work in progress on Hosier Lane in Melbourne

We continued to explore all the nooks and crannies of Hosier Lane before continuing onward like detectives now that we were on high alert for art – painted, paste ups, stickers, stencil art and yarn bombing to name a few types of street art we would learn about on the tour.  I was entralled with the art – it was alive and was challenging me to rethink graffiti, art and street art as there is a delicate balance between what folks view as destructive and what they see as creative.

Melbourne Street Art

A picture will definitely last longer than the street art in Melbourne

The thing about street art is that it constantly changes (for the most part) and the art that I would see today would change on my visit two weeks later.  It is a fleeting glimpse into the creativity of the artists, the mood of the time and the need to constantly change.  These are a few of the many hundreds of photos I took in November 2013 during my two visits to Melbourne (the first visit in the rain, the second in the sun). If you want to see how the street art in Paris compares, read “Paris: More than Graffiti, the Street Art Walking Tour“.  You will definitely see and feel a difference in the street art scene.


The Street Art of Melbourne – the Paste Ups

Melbourne Street Art

One of my favorites by Be Free – a paste up mixed with paint in a cheeky way

Melbourne Street Art Paste Up butterflies

The Paste Up and the painted butterflies as music in Melbourne

Be Free Melbourne Street Art

I really like the street art by Be Free in Melbourne – a paste up mixed with paint

While the Melbourne art can be found on your own without a guide, I would recommend that you go with a guide to learn more about the art, the techniques and the artist.  It’s quite easy to see art and say “yes or no” to whether you like it but to learn how it was conceived, what the influences were and how it fits into the street art scene adds layers to your understanding in my opinion.

The Street Art of Melbourne (November 2013)

Melbourne Street Art

One alley, many artists in Melbourne

Melbourne Street Art

Same alley, view on the right













Melbourne Street Art

You need to look up and all around to see the whole picture of art

Melbourne Street Art

When the canvas is the entire wall, large scale street art can be created

Melbourne Street Art

Working with the wall to create the street art in Melbourne

Melbourne Street Art

This reminded me of much of the graffiti art I’ve seen evolve from tagging

Melbourne Street Art

So much art on one wall in Melbourne

Melbourne Street Art

The vibrant colors of love in Melbourne painted over another artist’s work

Shree Ganesh by Deb Melbourne Street Artist

Shree Ganesh by Melbourne Artist Deb is very famous and doesn’t get painted over

Hopefully, you will start to see Street Art in a new light and seek it out when you travel.  I will be posting more about all of the street art I’ve seen on my travels – it’s all very interesting and considering I have trouble drawing stick figures, I’m in awe of the creativity and the ability to give the world your work only for it to be gone days or weeks later.

Categories: Activities/Experiences, Art, Melbourne, Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Travel Dilemma – A Case of the Destination Doldrums

It’s early September and I should be traveling somewhere or preparing to go away.  Traveling in September, the start of the fall season was always something to look forward to – to survive the hot, sticky, humid, icky Philly weather which was often in the high 90′s (or hitting 100F) and be rewarded with an amazing trip usually to the Toronto International Film Festival.  But this fall, I have a travel dilemma – I’m self diagnosing myself with a case of the destination doldrums.  Armed with vacation time to use, free hotel stay certificates, air miles and hotel points, all should be good things and yet, I’m stuck.


I should be here this year at TIFF watching films and being star struck by actors and directors but am burnt out on the city of Toronto

Last year, I was preparing for my insane two months of travel (two over the pond and one RTW), the year before I was off on my African Adventure and the years prior enjoying my beloved Toronto Film Festival watching 20 films in less than 5 days.  This year, I had a summer of insane travel over six weeks (two over the pond and one West Coast trip) which left me exhausted again but also with a big case of wanderlust to go somewhere new.  While I know many friends who can happily take the same cruise ship to the same islands each year or visit the same summer beach, I’ve not able to do that (I’m sure a therapist has a theory on this).

In the past, I would hesitate to return to a destination as I craved somewhere new – to challenge myself to explore the country/city/town and find the adventure which allowed me to discover new pieces of myself along the way. A reset of my mind, body and spirit to reconnect me to the larger world knowing that I was only a small part of it. A part of me keeps trying to recapture the travel ghost of years gone by – back before the internet when the only information I knew was from guide books, history books and the encyclopedia. Travel may not have been that glamorous back then (flying coach, staying budget hotels) but it was exciting to write postcards home to friends/family that arrived after I returned, trying to figure things out when barely any English was spoken and local currencies prevailed (I was a multi-millionaire in Italian lire).  Fun to recall a time when I asked the overseas operator to place a collect call home and my Dad not wanting to pay would say “he wasn’t accepting the call” as code for “Glad you arrived in x country and are OK”.

Island of St. John beach coastline

Should I go to the Caribbean? Spend time at the Island of St. John

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Fashionable and Fabulous at The Nines Hotel in Portland

The Nines Hotel Portland OregonNot everyone swoons over a great hotel like I do, some people just see it for what it is – a place to sleep.  Fair enough, we each have our own travel styles, mine involves hotels that make me happy with great design, comfort and good service. So choosing a great hotel in a new city takes a bit of time for me to evaluate all the reviews, photos and other factors.  Going back to Portland, Oregon, for my “happy conference”, I didn’t have to do any research to know that  The Nines Hotel, was the place to be (it also helped that it offered a  fantastic conference rate of $229 per night + tax and I’d earn Starwood points).



Portland is a collection of small easily walkable neighborhoods. The Nines hotel is downtown across from Pioneer Square, a hub of activity- weekly farmers market, World Cup final watching party during my visit and other events.  A block in one direction you are at the mall with movie theatre, bowling alley bar and a collection of great stores, including the popular Nike store.  A block in the other direction is Nordstrom (with no sales tax need I say more?). The light rail (tram) is steps away.

The Nines Hotel elevator lobby decor

The Nines Hotel elevator lobbies are stylish too!


Flying from the East Coast, I would arrive late at the hotel by taxi (while there is a public transit option from the airport, it was late, I was alone so I chose the taxi option).  I was instantly welcomed to the hotel by the bell staff at the door (there were usually at least 3-4 staff visible at the entrance during my stay) and escorted upstairs to check-in.  The historic Meier & Frank building houses The Nines on the top levels and a Macy’s below.  Meier & Frank were retailers and the hotel celebrates that history in the art in the common spaces.  The fashionable parts of the hotel were clearly evident and as this is Portland, the hotel is environmentally friendly with its LEED certification.

The Nines Hotel lobby

The jewels and mannequins in the lobby of The Nines Hotel

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Categories: Hotels, luxury hotel, Portland, Oregon, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments