Friday, June 12, 2015

Roadtrip for Cameras - Wales: Cardiff, Castles & Coastlines

Fog rolls in with the tide at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Wales

From Cardiff, California, to Cardiff, Wales, I set off with my family recently to explore the land of my ethnic heritage. Despite several generations in America, I am undoubtedly of Welsh descent. To begin with, my father gave me a first name about as Welsh as they come, Kymri. Though no more common a name in Wales than here in the US, it is a derivation of CYMRU - which is the Welsh word for Wales itself.

"Cymri" is a word used to designate the Welsh people, culture, and spirit, and their passion for journeying. My parents traded the C for a K, and I cannot imagine having any other name, it is exactly right for me. Add to that my fair skin, ruddy nose and cheeks, and an appreciation for fine whiskey and cheeses, and I'll be the first to tell you that Welsh blood runs deep....as does Welsh pride.

So imagine my pride as I introduced my daughter to her maternal ethnic homeland...awakening that Welshness that runs through her blood. It really helped that she and her father are big Dr. Who fans, so that was the obvious starting point for us in Cardiff - a visit to the Dr. Who Experience in Cardiff, Wales.

CARDIFF

The Millenium Centre, Cardiff, Wales.





Dr. Who is a time traveler, and we traveled through time on our roadtrip to the Middle Ages. Wales is home to over 400 castles, with more castles per square mile than any other country. To help us plan our itinerary of conquering historic castles, we got a membership to CADW, the organization that manages over 100 castles and historic sites in Wales.

CASTLES

Some of the castles we visited were well-known:

Caerphilly Castle, the largest castle in Europe

Caerphilly Castle, Wales - the largest castle in Europe.

Caernarfon Castle, where Queen Elizabeth II formally crowned Charles, Prince of Wales



Conwy Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with well-preserved town walls

Conwy Castle view from the town walls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Wales.

While some were less visited, but no less impressive:

Kidwelly Castle (my personal favorite)

Kidwelly Castle

Harlech Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the best Welsh tea cakes on offer anywhere



Denbigh Castle, impressive location and exciting wind factor on the day we visited

Ruins of Denbigh Castle, Wales

To balance out my family's fascination with exploring historic old castles, we spent a good amount of time on the coast, thus breaking up the heavy doses of history with relaxing doses of being here and now in the present.

COASTLINES

Surfers at Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail covers 186 miles of diverse and breathtaking scenery along the west coast of Wales, with long sandy beaches, serene tidal estuaries, and rugged rocky cliffs. I simply can't rave about this part of Britain enough, and I truly wonder how the Welsh manage to keep quietly humble about it - perhaps that's the secret to conserving it.

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire National Coast, Wales.

Freshwater West Beach is recognizable to any Harry Potter fan - this is where Shell Cottage stood, and where Dobby the house elf was laid to rest in the nearby dunes.

Dunes at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire National Coast, Wales.

In addition to being a film location for "Robin Hood", Freshwater West also happens to be have decent surf, and is host to the Welsh National Surfing Championships. It wasn't exactly going off when we were there, but there was effort on the part of local surfers.

Surfers at Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.


Surfer catches wave at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Wales.




Further north along the coast, just south of St. Davids, is another favorite surf beach for the Welsh, Newgale Sands. While it was tempting to hit up the local surf rental shop, it was low tide, and I found the sky more remarkable than the waves.

Newgale Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.


Newgale Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.


Between long stretches of sandy beach, the Pembrokeshire Coast continued to entertain us with dramatic scenery. After all, this is where the sport of "coasteering" took hold (pun intended), with good reason. Near the small town of Abereiddy sits the Blue Lagoon, where another adventurous sport, cliff diving, took flight (pun intended, again).

The coastline near Abereiddy, Wales, popular for coasteering.


The Blue Lagoon near Abereiddy, on the Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales.


We based ourselves in what is probably the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park itself, in the town of Newport. Each day we set out on a nature walk along the Newport Estuary, which never ceased to awe.

Sun setting at Newport Sands Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.






Sun setting as fishermen return, Newport Sands Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

As I review my photos and notes of this incredible roadtrip journey, it occurs to me that there is simply too much to share in one post. So I'm saving the second half for a second part, which I'll publish next week. Check back for more from Wales, featuring Snowdonia and the northern coast, plus cromlechs and crosses!

See the full gallery of Wales images here:




Follow more of my Roadtrips for Cameras series here:

Arizona's National Parks
California's Central Coast
Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore
Guysborough Galleries

Monday, May 04, 2015

Ricardo of Beverly Hills: My New Favorite Rolling Carry-On



Move over Tumi, I have a new favorite rolling carry-on bag, the Elite Roxbury 2.0 21-inch Expandable Spinner Wheelaboard from Ricardo of Beverly Hills. Everything about it just works. Perfectly.



PACKING

Packing is super easy with two compartments, one of which zips up entirely, so you can keep your clothes separate from your shoes. The zippers don't get stuck, the mini-pouches and straps all make sense, and every bit of interior space is usable. Speaking of zippers, it's expandable, and still remains airline carry-on compliant.

ROLLING

Honestly, I have never breezed through an airport so gracefully. This lightweight bag has four gliding wheels and a sturdy, telescoping handle. The dual spinner wheel system allows for 360° mobility, so walking with it feels more like holding hands with a bag that truly loves you... rather than lugging a bag that doesn't love you back.

TOTING

With a built in TSA compliant combination lock, and a retractable Add-a-Bag strap, security is a breeze, especially if you've made use of the included one-quart zip bag for the 3-ounce liquids.

WHAT ELSE?

So, I confess this is NOT my first love affair with a rolling carry-on from Ricardo of Beverly Hills. A few years ago, I found myself transiting terminals with a sore back and shoulders from the backpack I was wearing for my camera gear and laptop.  I headed to the nearest shop in the terminal and found a perfectly suited RBH 17 inch rolling case, that I could easily fit my cameras, lenses, and entire padded backpack in! Add to that room for plugs, batteries, chargers, and both an interior and exterior padded sleeve for laptops and/or tablets, and my traveling office/darkroom was born.



With all my heavier gear transferred now to a rolling case, I no longer had to take up an extra seat in the lounge with my camera pack, and my posture returned to a healthier balance.  Plus, I can discreetly roll around my camera gear without advertising to the world what's in my bag. Oops, I guess I just did.

SO YOU WANT ONE TOO?

Good news! Head over to Ricardo of Beverly Hills online store to claim your deal, a whopping 65% off your order, PLUS FREE SHIPPING! When you check out, enter the code: TMOM65OFF to redeem. But hurry, sale ends May 31, 2015! You're welcome.

 


Disclosure: Ricardo of Beverly Hills provided me with the Roxbury 2.0 Elite Spinner WheelAboard for review purposes. I absolutely love it, and that's why I'm happy to share my opinion with you. If I didn't love it, you'd know that, too.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Why Vine is my Favorite Travel Photography App

"Vine is the newish social media platform that is what would happen if Instagram and YouTube had a love child." - Spud Hilton, San Francisco Gate (March 2013)

When people ask me what Vine is, I pretty much explain it the same way, only without the San Fran-centric love child reference. Vine is my all-time favorite app for travel videography, and here's why.



Likes and Unlikes

* Like Instagram, Vine is a phone-based visual sharing app, but you share videos instead of still images. You have a profile, followers, and hashtags to find viners you want to follow. You can like, comment on, and re-share content.

* Like YouTube, Vine has themed channels to which you post your vines, and on which you can watch vines. Popular Vine channels include: Animals, Places, Music & Dance, Sports, and Comedy.

* Unlike Instagram, and more like Twitter (who owns Vine), you are limited to a caption of 140 characters. No micro-blogging allowed or necessary. If a picture can tell a story better than a thousand words, then do you really need a long caption for video?

* Unlike YouTube, you only have 6 seconds to tell your story. Start. Count to six. Stop. Publish.


Six Seconds?

Yes. 6 seconds is all you need. That's about the attention span of the media-consuming public these days anyways. Besides, you're recording from your phone, so keeping it short and simple doesn't eat up all your mobile memory. And bonus: it's hella easier to edit a 6-second clip on the road without spending hours downloading and editing footage on a laptop.



So for those short-attention-spanners who landed on this page thanks to SEO, without further adieu, I hereby present:

Top Three Tips for creating Travel Vines

* Hold the camera stationary and record a moving scene. While it's tempting to pan and zoom, the most effective method is to be still and let the subject do the moving.

* Use First-Person POV (point of view). When recording a travel experience, personalize the perspective so the viewer feels they are there experiencing and watching it too.

* See with your ears as well as your eyes. Video means audio, so pay attention to what your hearing before you film. In some cases it will be the reason you choose to take a video rather than a still. Those moments usually make for the most captivating vines.

Here's a 6-second example (note: to hear the audio, hover on the video and click the speaker button):



This particular Vine leads nicely in to my closing point.

Vines grow like...Vines

A good vine never really expires, it just keeps growing, like these brittlestars on vine. The above video is case and point. A 10-second clip of that same musician posted to Instagram got 16 likes, while the still image of him on Instagram got 40 likes. Even the most popular travel instagrammers are lucky to get engagement from 10% of their followers, most posts average less than 1%. Compare that to the 6-second clip posted to Vine, which, as of this writing, has had over a million views (loops) 15.3 THOUSAND likes, 3,539 shares (revines), and 1,132 comments. You do the math. But clearly, Vine for the win in this case study.

Hashtags on Vine

For travel, start with #travelvine and #6secondpostcard. You can hashtag a particular destination, and search by a destination's hashtag for inspiration. For example, I created my own hashtag to share vines from Cuba, which has started to gain traction for those going to Cuba: #Cubavine. After all, a photo just doesn't immerse you into Cuban culture the way music does. Do those vines inspire you to visit Cuba? Good. More on that soon.

So where does that leave Instagram?

In summary, a good vine has a potential shelf life that would put a twinkie to shame. A good instagram post grows quickly, blooms, then wilts away, drowning in the river of images pouring out over the internet like a river emptying into a vast ocean.

But instagram pretty much IS that vast ocean of imagery on the internet - it's not going away - with over 300 million active monthly users, and I'm certainly one of them. Have you found me there? Here, I'll make it easy for you. Just click follow on this "#sunsetgram". I share a lot of them between travels.



And on the subject of apps, and sunsets, I've just started playing with Instagram's new Layout app and I'm LOVING IT!



What's your favorite travel photography app?

Please join me on twitter later today (or night depending on where you are):

Thursday, April 2 at 9pm ET, 6pm PT

for #TNTChats with Techlicious. I'll be co-hosting this fun photography themed tech and travel chat, and we'll be be covering tips for taking and sharing photos (or videos), favorite apps, and more. Plus, someone will win an Amazon Gift Card!

Until then, be sure to check out these other #IGTravelThursday posts: