Sunday, October 18, 2009

Useful tips for travel photography

For 20 years, I used single-lens reflex (SLR) film cameras, but I've been using various point-and-shoots since about 2002, waiting for the price of digital SLRs to come down. Recently, the wait ended. And now, as the proud new owner of a DSLR, I'm avid to reacquaint myself with all the bells and whistles an SLR can offer: more control over exposure and focus, various lenses and filters, and more.

In particular, I'm trolling for tips on how to make better pictures while travelling, and I've come across a number of useful articles online.

For good, basic tips, I liked "Easy Steps to Better Vacation Photos" at Popular Photography magazine's website. The magazine (and website) also have great guides to shooting in particular locations, such as this article on making photographs in New Orleans.

Fodor's also has a useful site divided into subsections such as people, lighting and composition.

And I could spend all day digging around the wealth of fantastic features and good advice on National Geographic's photography website.

For sheer inspiration (along with some tips), try a photo-heavy site called, naturally enough,

I've inserted a few of my favourite travel photos into this post, but they were all taken more by good luck than good management. Now it's time to learn--or remember--how to make my own luck.

What is your number-one tip for making memorable photos on the road?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Video: A Finnish bhangra band!

OK, this is THE coolest thing I've stumbled across on the Internet all week: a Finnish bhangra band!

According to its website, Shava "is guaranteed to be the world's only Finnish bhangra group." I can't argue with that.

I first came across them in an article chronicling their recent appearance on a Finnish TV network. But it turns out they were also featured in a documentary about bhangra music on CBC Radio 2 in August.

Their stuff is insanely catchy, as you can tell from this YouTube video:

My favourite international riff on Indian music is still the "Indo-calypso-jazz" of Trinidad-born Mungal Patasar--his song Tendonitis (Razorshop Remix) is one of the best things on my iPod-- but Shava is a close second. Any band that can nickname one of its members "the Finnjabi bad boy" has to be a contender.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wanna buy a home-swap site?

Ever wanted to run your own home exchange site? Do you have an artistic bent? Montreal-based is for sale (along with its French-language version, Aimed at artists and art teachers who need somewhere to stay for a vacation or sabbatical, the home-swap site is for sale because the owner--a full-time artist and picture framer--doesn't have time to promote it properly.

Sale details are available at Deal-a-Site.

One more reason to visit Gibsons, B.C.

Okay, I'll admit that part of the reason I was excited about visiting Gibsons, British Columbia, was the chance to check out the place where a hoary old CBC-TV series called "The Beachcombers" was filmed. Weirdly, I didn't even like the show when it aired from 1972 to 1990. It's just that Canada has precious few famous TV sites, so it was kind of cool to see one.

And yes, indeed, you can still visit some of the sites made famous by the 1970s show, including a revamped version of a restaurant called Molly's Reach. But there are many more reasons to visit Gibsons: it has lovely art galleries and craft shops, some unpretentious restaurants (we checked out a highly recommended one called Smitty's Oyster House, but didn't have time to eat there) and one of the most gorgeous little harbours you're likely to see anywhere.

This week, Gibsons gained one new claim to fame: it was just judged the world's most liveable city (population 20,000 or under) in the International Awards for Liveable Communities (LivCom), held in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

The city of 4,000 on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, about 45 minutes from West Vancouver, had to excel in six criteria: Enhancement of the Landscape, Heritage Management, Environmentally Sensitive Practices, Community Sustainability, Healthy Lifestyles and Planning for the Future.

I don't know much about the deep details of Gibsons' municipal environmental management, to be honest, aside from the fact that a waterfront condo development proposal recently ignited a firestorm of debate (see my article about the Sunshine Coast for Legion magazine). But I do know that it's a mighty pleasant place to roam around--even though you won't run into the late actor Bruno Gerussi.

Disclosure: I travelled to the Sunshine Coast as a guest of the Vancouver Coast & Mountains Tourism Region.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Insider tips on Brazil, New York and Montreal

I've just discovered three excellent blogs offering insider travel tips: Brazil for Insiders, Montreal for Insiders and New York for Insiders. When you've been there and seen that--or even if you haven't--you'll find inspiration for off-the-beaten path adventures.

Brazilian-born, Montreal-based food and travel writer Alexandra Forbes writes Brazil for Insiders. She dishes up the scoop on things like haute couture beachwear and custom tours of Sao Paulo.

Montreal for Insiders by Fiona O'Connor has a strong focus on music, food and art. If you like Mexican munchies, check out this post on Mestiza, a gourmet shop in Rosemont.

And at New York for Insiders, writer Karin Dauch points readers to places like a Portuguese restaurant in Brooklyn and downtown speakeasies.

What are your favourite websites for tips on spots beyond the tourist trail?