Traveling Thursday – Picture Perfect

Vacations, Forth of July fireworks, family gatherings…there are so many things to photograph during the summer. This week I’m sharing a list of links that will help you improve your photography skills.

Shooting Fireworks
This piece from Digital Trends focuses on tips for a “real” camera.

The New York Institute of Photography offers tips for both DSLR and point-and-shoot models with a lot of editing tips thrown in as well.

This piece from Photojojo includes some ideas to spark your creativity.

Vacation Photos
TLC offers tips for taking fantastic family vacation photos.

Hip Trip Mama has even more tips, both technical and artistic, to shoot great pics on your next family vacation.

Fodor’s has lots of tips for creating memorable vacation photos.

Planning to use a self-timer? Here’s how NOT to do it.

Take better beach photos using these tips.

Improve Photography gives great advice for shooting in the mountains.

Miscellaneous Links
Camping with your photography equipment

Interesting, alternative uses for your camera during your travels

If you know of other good resources, please share them in the comments.

Traveling Thursday – Be realistic

It’s disappointing when you realize that you might not be physically able to travel in the way that you used to. No one wants to admit that an ailment or age might keep them from seeing, doing, and going. As painful as it may be, we should all think seriously about our fitness level and whether we can meet the challenges of the trip that lies before us.

If you are taking a group tour, talk with your operator about the physical challenges you’ll meet on the tour. They should be able to provide information about the lengths of walking tours and the types of terrain you’ll encounter. Ask about your accommodations as well. Is there an elevator? If you’re traveling abroad, does that elevator work? What is the shower/tub like? Use this information to decide whether a trip is right for you or not. Reputable operators will not push you into taking a trip that is outside your comfort zone. If you feel pressured, it might be a sign that the operator and itinerary aren’t right for you.

Be honest from the start. If you have a physical limitation or condition that requires special consideration, talk with your tour operator and/or traveling companions about it. Find out if accommodations can be made but understand that sometimes, there is nothing that can be done. Most attractions in the U.S. are very accessible to those with limited mobility. The same is not true for other parts of the world. Find out what’s involved with traveling to your dream destination.

Don’t forget the airports. If you’ll need a wheelchair for the airport, talk to your travel planner or airline in advance. Don’t feel bad about asking for this assistance. Some airports are massive. By pre-booking a wheelchair you ensure that you won’t overexert yourself before the trip even begins.

It’s more than just mobility, disclose other conditions too. A traveler waited until the week before departure to tell me that her traveling companion had hemophilia and required a refrigerator for his supply of clotting factor. We were able to arrange for a small fridge to be put in their room but it involved a lot of last-minute effort on everyone’s part. This is the kind of thing that you need to tell your travel planner from the beginning. It’s much easier to solve these problems in advance.

Many travel companies will ask passengers to complete a passenger information form that asks lots of questions, including some related to health and fitness. Answer those questions completely and honestly.

Group tours are not a babysitting service. I have encountered a few instances where adult-children knowingly sent their parents on a group tour despite physical or mental limitations. You can’t expect that someone will take care of your loved one. Tour leaders have to take care of logistics for the whole group and do not have the time or training to be an aide for travelers with special needs.

With anything else in life, honesty is the best policy. By honestly assessing your fitness level and asking questions in advance, you should be able to select the right trip. Once you’ve selected a trip, be sure to share health-related information with your traveling companions and/or travel planner.

Gallabrae – Greenville Scottish Games

gallabrae caberMcB and I attended Gallabrae – Greenville Scottish Games on Memorial Day weekend. The festivities were held at Furman. In addition to pipers, the event featured border collie competitions, Highland dancing, heavy athletics like caber and sheath tossing, a Celtic music tent, and a British car show.

We were both pretty impressed with Gallabrae. There were a number of things going on simultaneously and you could easily find something to suit your fancy.

pipers gallabraeIf you’ve never been to the games before, I would definitely recommend going next year.

At $15 per adult, it’s not the cheapest event; but, the wide variety of activities makes it a good value.

In the spirit of sharing, I would offer these lessons to make your day a bit more enjoyable.

  • Arrive early. The traffic snarls quite a bit and you don’t want to miss anything while waiting in a long line.
  • Consider taking a bag chair or blanket. Seating is very limited and while there is a lot of grass to sit on, some of it is oddly rough and scratchy.
  • Save money by printing out a schedule from the website or going to the festival tent to see the full program instead of buying one.
  • If you don’t mind buying a program, get it early. They were sold out around noon on Saturday.
  • Wear a hat and sunscreen. There is very little shade.
  • Take cash for the vendors, especially those selling water and cold beverages.parachutes at gallabrae
    • Go to the opening ceremony. This year we saw a team parachuting down with American and Scottish flags, pipers, and the parade of clans.
  • Visit the British car show on your way out. The cars are in a nice shady area that’s not unbearable in the heat of the day.

Here are a few more images from the day. After looking at these and recounting the day, I’m really looking forward to the 2013 event.

sheep at the border collie demo


Traveling Thursday – Staying healthy while traveling

Travel can be rough on your body. Even a short trip means changing your routine and possibly throwing your system off kilter. Being sick or feeling a little off is never fun but it’s even worse when you are away from home, especially if you are wasting precious vacation time.

There are some basic things you can do to treat your body well and minimize the effects of travel.

Stay hydrated. More than half your body is made of water and if it’s going to function properly, you need to stay hydrated. The symptoms of jet lag can be compounded by dehydration. To take care of your body, be sure you’re drinking several glasses of water a day. If you cringe at the price of water in the airport, bring an empty bottle through security and refill it at a water fountain near your gate. Ask for water during your flight. Remember that drinks with alcohol or caffeine can make dehydration worse.

Be mindful of where that water is coming from. If you are traveling internationally, be sure to ask whether it’s OK to drink the water or not. In most European countries, there’s no reason not to drink the tap water but in other parts of the world, it can be more dicey. Ask your guide or the hotel staff. If you are encouraged to buy water, make sure you are buying a sealed bottle from a reputable shop. If you can’t drink the water, don’t eat the ice or drink any cold beverages that are mixed with water. Also, stick to fruits and vegetables that must be peeled in these countries.

Jump (well move) around. Deep Vein Thrombosis and pulmonary embolism occur when a blood clot forms in a large vein. This can be fatal if a portion of the clot breaks off and enters your lung. Most people associate the condition with long flights, say the 17.5 hour jaunt between Dulles and Johannesburg; but studies show that even four hours of travel in a plane, train, bus or car, can put you at risk. Walking around is a great way to mitigate your risk. If you can’t do that, you should raise and lower your feet/heels while seated. This PDF from the National Blood Clot Alliance offers some great prevention tips.

Get your Zzzz’s. Treat your body well and it will return the favor. If you are out late, then try to stay in bed a little longer the next morning. Remember that caffeine can make dehydration worse so don’t try to make up for your lack of sleep by downing mass amounts of coffee.

Watch what you eat. Yes, it’s vacation and you should feel free to indulge but keep it under control. Your body doesn’t want a steady diet of deep fried, fatty foods. Try to balance heavy meals with lighter options.

Pack the antibac and sunscreen. You’ll need them both. I got a sunburn in Scotland because I was expecting dark, dreary skies. You’ll likely have at least one intensely sunny day so pack a small tube of sunscreen.

This post could go on and on. There are so many easy, common sense things you can do to have healthy travels. For more great tips, and in depth coverage on things like vaccinations and region-specific issues, visit the CDC’s site for
great resources and tips.

Traveling Thursday – Drive safely

For many, summer vacation involves driving. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your journey as safe as possible.

  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Both under-and-over inflated tires can cause you trouble so use the tire gauge to ensure that your tires are at the proper pressure. Check your tire pressure before you start driving. The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle should be listed in the driver’s side door, on the glove box door, or in the owner’s manual. Don’t confuse the recommended pressure with the maximum pressure that is stamped on the tire itself.
  • Don’t skimp on service! Regular oil changes are even more important in the heat of summer when your engine needs even more lubrication. If your summer routine involves pulling a boat or other equipment, ask your mechanic if you should switch to a more viscous oil.
  • Just as you are taking precautions to keep yourself hydrated, make sure your automobile’s fluids (coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid) are at proper levels.
  • If your vacation takes you to the mountains, consider downshifting instead of riding your brakes down a hill.
  • Keep an eye on your temperature gauge. If you start to overheat, try turning the heat on in your car. This should bring the temperature down a bit. If you have to stop to cool the engine down, remember that you should wait a bit before opening the hood.
  • Check out your wipers and replace if needed. Sun and heat can cause your windshield wipers to wear faster.
  • Check out the air conditioner. Not only will you get uncomfortable if the air conditioning goes out, but may also lose other important engine systems.
  • If you are taking a long drive or heading to a sparsely populated area, consider packing a gallon of water, extra coolant and oil. These items may come in handy during your travels.
  • Remember that there are areas were the GPS doesn’t get a signal. Buy an atlas or print your Google map as a backup.
  • For driver safety, be sure to take routine breaks. I know someone who drove so long that when he got out of the car, his legs locked up and he fell hard in parking lot. He always thought I was a wimp for taking breaks to stop and stretch my legs but that changed after he bloodied his knees. Be kind to your body and plan to stop about every two-hours or 100 miles.
  • Don’t drive when you are sleepy. Drowsy driving can cause accidents. Pull over at a rest area to take a cat nap or treat yourself to a night in a hotel. Check for coupon books at interstate rest stops to bring the cost down.