I’m really hoping that we can get back to some form of travel this year. I really miss traveling and shooting. With that in mind, there’s a great way to start off 2021 by learning some new skills from the best instructors at the Kelbyone Travel Photography Conference. This two-day online conference is a must for anyone interested in boosting their travel photography skills. I hope to see you there. You can register here.
In September 2017 I took delivery of my new Tesla Model S. Although I had put in an order for a Tesla Model 3 on day one of pre-orders, I later decided to cancel that order and go for the Model S instead. This would be my first EV (electric vehicle) and I spent an entire year researching it and talking with other Tesla owners before pulling the trigger on my order.
Driving the car has been nothing but fun! It’s awesome saying goodbye to gasoline and more importantly gas stations. I work from home so I don’t really have much of a daily commute. I charge the Tesla each night right in my garage, therefore I wake up every day with a “full tank.”
This also means that I never really have to charge away from home, unless I decide to take road trip
I had a business trip coming up to the Tampa Florida area (about 480 miles away) and decided to drive instead of flying. It would also give me the chance to take some video equipment along that would be easier to bring in the car rather than flying with it.
I’m usually very good at keeping up with my gear. To date I’ve never lost a phone, iPod, camera or other portable electronic piece of gear. However, last week I had a couple of close calls and both were quickly solved with the free Find my iPhone app by Apple. Don’t let the name fool you. “Find my iPhone” isn’t just limited to finding lost/stolen iPhones. It can find just about any piece of Apple gear that’s equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth or Cellular.
I almost lost an AirPod
I remember when I got my AirPods at the beginning of the year, the number one question/concern people asked me was “aren’t you afraid of losing them?” I wasn’t afraid of losing them at all. They fit snuggly enough in my ears not to fall out on their own and whenever I’m not using them I return them to the charging case. However, I almost lost one last week in a weird way:
Hey everyone! I’m back from Iceland and as usual I learned a lot and had a blast. With that said there are a lot of questions that come up when ever I do a photographic excursion and this trip was no different. The questions started even before I left about the equipment I was taking and in some cases why I wasn’t taking more? As promised here is the list of gear I took based on the load out pic above.
Targus laptop rolling backpack. I initially bought this for Photoshop World so that I would have to carry my heavy backpack back and forth. For the Iceland trip it served as a secondary equipment bag.
WD My Passport Wireless 2TB HD. This drive is a lifesaver as it allows you to backup your SD cards without having to use a computer. It has a lithium ION rechargeable battery and you can just plug your SD cards in and they automatically copy to the drive.
Last year I got an incredible opportunity to spend part of my sabbatical in Iceland. See the story here. Of course when I got back many of my friends, fans and family asked “Why didn’t you take me with you?” “Next time, take me with you.” “Do you need an assistant?” Well here’s your chance to go with me this year. The good folks over at focusonnature.is are dedicating one of their amazing tours to me and a small group of photographers that want to tag along. It’s rare that I travel to the same place on vacation two years in a row, but in this case I’m willing to take one for the team 🙂 You can get the details here.
I just spent a week in Iceland on a photographic adventure
Many of you know that I started my Adobe 20th Anniversary sabbatical on August 1st and if you would have asked me on August 1st did I have any big trips planned I would have said no. This was going to be more of a staycation. However, I got the chance to go to Iceland at the last minute. It was AMAZING! There’s just no way that I can do this story justice by posting the images and text here, so I decided to the next best thing and that is to tell my story with Adobe Spark Page which you can view below (just click and start scrolling):
I would say that this was a once in a lifetime trip, but I won’t because I have a feeling that I’ll go back and shoot some more. Iceland is amazing. If you get the chance to go there, take it! Special shoutout to Scott Kelby, Einar Eriendsson and Ragnar Og Ásdís for making this the perfect trip. I hope to do a workshop soon in Iceland with Einar.
About the gear I took to Iceland
This was a photographic trip, so the gear was important. I didn’t really call it out in the Spark Page above, so I’ll do so here as an added bonus to my blog readers:
I did a LOT on the go with Adobe Mobile Apps, you should definitely check out this new book to see what’s possible:
I travel a LOT for my job. I usually either stay at a Hilton property or a Marriott property as they are on my company’s approved list of hotels in most places. However, since I started doing more worldwide travel a few years ago I switched my preference back then from Marriott to Hilton. Hilton simply had more properties in the places that I traveled to the most. Now I don’t travel worldwide as much as I used to. I do still travel quite a bit here in the US.
As many of you know I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. I’ve been across the river to Canada more times than I can remember. However, in all my years of going to Canada I’ve never gone solely for the purpose of photographing the Detroit skyline. I now live in Atlanta and came back to Detroit for a business trip (come to my event on Tuesday 9/22).Before heading to the Atlanta airport to fly to Detroit I reached in my desk drawer and grabbed my passport.
I got to the ATL airport and figured since my passport was right in pocked I’d use it as my ID to go through TSA security. I handed the officer my passport and used the boarding pass on my Apple Watch to go through. No problem. Once I landed in DTW and on the way to my hotel I couldn’t help but notice how awesome the sky was. It was a perfect day to shoot! I checked in, worked for a few hours before getting in my rental car and heading to the Tunnel to Canada. I paid the toll, drove through and got to the Canadian customs booth. I handed the officer my passport answered the standard questions and I was on my way to the park to shoot.
I was shooting there for about 2 hours altogether. I was a great night despite all the mosquito bites. Everyone on the Canadian side was enjoying the moment. Lot’s of people walking and riding up and down the boardwalk.
After capturing all the angles I wanted, it was time to hop back in the car and head back across the border to the US/Detroit. I went back through the tunnel as it was closer than the Ambassador Bridge.
Once I got to the US Customs Border Patrol booth I handed the officer my passport answered his initial questions and then he asked me something that sent a chill down my spine. He asked “why is your passport expired?” In that moment I realized that I must have grabbed the wrong passport from the drawer. “Oh crap” (to myself). I explained, that I must have grabbed my older passport instead of my current one. Now of course I’m thinking to myself “how was I able to go through TSA and through Canada with no one noticing this?” After some more questions (keeping in mind I had nothing to hide) I was directed to pull over to the side. I figured that they were going to do one of those insane car searches where they rip everything apart for 2 hours. Instead I was asked to leave the keys and my cellphone in the car, take my money/wallet and head into the building. I entered and sat in a waiting room for about 20 minutes before being called up.
I went up to the desk and the officer asked me what was going on? I explained it to him and he seemed a bit puzzled as to why I was there. He even asked “did the other officer say anything else? did he seem angry?” I said, no but he did seem annoyed. He shook his head and then asked me to go back to my car and grab my camera to show him the pics.
I did and as he was reviewing them he said “ooh, I like that one” showing it to his buddy. After a few more minutes I was on my way. I can only assume that they have the ability to look up my current info in their system and can see that I do in fact have a valid passport. I even offered to give them the current number at both locations and they didn’t want it. They were implying that the both agent didn’t really have to have me detained as apparently he looked up my info before having me pull over. Also my car was not searched.
The Bottom Line
You better believe that I will never grab the wrong passport again. It’s scary to think that I boarded a plane and went to another country with an expired passport. It also shows that the technology is at their fingertips to verify your info and that some people can put you through unnecessary steps in a process because they are perhaps having a bad day, want to teach you a lesson or simply don’t like the way you look. I’m happy that I was able to come back into the US and that the delay wasn’t hours and that it was only a delay and not something worse!
Having just returned from 3 weeks in the Asia Pacific region and a week in Europe a month ago I definitely have some new tips for travelers and those that travel with electronic gear or camera gear. The first thing that most travelers with tech will be concerned about is charging your devices in route and charging them once you get to your destination.
Charging in the air
More and more long haul flights are providing USB power at every seat. If you’re in an Economy Plus seat you may even have a regular AC outlet as well which would be great for charging a laptop or tablet. It goes without saying that Business Class/First Class seats almost always have both regular AC power and USB power ports at every seat. Before you get too happy about the USB power port be aware that it is more than likely a 5v port and therefore may not charge a tablet (ie. iPad).
What if you don’t have power at your seat?
If you are on an older aircraft or crappy airline then chances are you’re not going to have power at your seat. This is where you’ll probably rely on bringing a backup battery. There are dozens and dozens of different backup battery models out there. I have recently standardized on Anker products for my charging needs. Their products are quality built and reasonably priced. I have a couple of their models.
The one I now carry on my person is the Anker 2nd Generation Astro 6400 mAh portable charger. This one can charge my iPhone 6 Plus almost two times on a single charge. I love how it has round edges and no external buttons. This makes it great for a pocket without having to worry about accidentally turning it on.
The one that I carry in my bag is the Anker Astro E7. This is the mother of all backup batteries for your mobile devices. It has a whopping 25600 mAh battery capacity with 3 ports 4A. It can charge an iPhone 6 Plus or Galaxy S6 over 6 times. An iPad twice. This means that I can use this battery for several days before needing to charge it.
It’s 2015 and while Delta has the largest WiFi equipped fleet it’s still pretty rare to find a long haul (over the ocean) flight with WiFi. As a matter of fact I was coming back from Amsterdam earlier this year on a Delta 747 and I was shocked to see that I had access to GoGo Inflight WiFi for the entire 10 hour trip! Unfortunately this is more of an exception than a rule. Delta is ahead with half of their long haul flights equipped with fast (much faster than domestic 3G speeds) satellite WiFi. When it comes to other airlines like Qantas, Air New Zealand, AirFrance, Singapore Airlines, etc. WiFi isn’t something that they are aggressively adding. In fact when I had a Twitter exchange with Qantas they said they did a trial 3 years ago and there wasn’t much interest. Keep in mind that it was 3 years ago and they were charging by the kilobyte. I would imagine that there wasn’t much interest at that time with something that was likely way overpriced. No one wants to pay by the kilobyte/megabyte. GoGo has the right approach in charging a flat fee for an hour or the entire flight.
I was way more productive with 10 hours of WiFi than my last flight coming home, a combined 18 hours of flight time without WiFi. If you’re expecting to get work done on a long flight be sure you’re doing things that don’t require an internet connection. With that said I can also settle the online debate of watching an iTunes rented movie with no internet connection in the air. If you rent AND download an iTunes rental on an iOS device BEFORE you board the flight. You CAN start and watch the movie WITHOUT an internet connection in the air. This wasn’t the case when iTunes rentals first hit the scene. They required a brief connection to the internet when you hit the play button to authorize the movie. Thankfully that wasn’t the case with the movie I watched on my iPad. While you can certainly watch/listen to entertainment, things like social media are out of the question without a connection.
Once you land and get to your hotel or place you’re staying at you’re probably going to want to plug stuff in and charge. Luckily most if not all modern day electronics have power supplies that handle the higher voltage of international outlets (220-240v). The main issue will be adapting the plug to the wall outlet. I used to be a fan of universal adapters that allowed one adapter to plug into multiple kinds of outlets. This used to be my favorite:
However, I’ve been frustrated in some cases with older outlets. These large universal adapters often are simply too heavy and fall out of older, looser wall sockets. On my last trip I used specific adapters for each country. In most cases you will only need three of these:
What I like out these single adapters is that they are much more reliable in just about any situation (older wall socket, power strips, etc.) and the newer design allows you to plug in two things.
Most countries have taxis, buses, subways and trains or least some combination of them. If I’m new to the area I’m rarely brave enough to take the train/subway because I fear getting lost. Believe it or not I’m very directionally challenged. I did use the subway in Milan to get to the EXPO because it was a single train and a direct shot. Most of the time I’d normally rely on taxis. However, with a taxi there are issues of either having enough cash in the local currency or having a compatible credit card. In some places all the taxis take cards and in others like Hong Kong they look at you like you’re crazy if you try to pay with a card. This is why I’ve gained a new respect and love for Uber. Uber was available in every country/city I visited and it took the pain out of getting around. Now I had one app on my iPhone that allowed me to summon a car whenever I wanted to. The service was consistent and since your credit card is on file with Uber there are no awkward payment issues at the end of the ride. Uber worked great everywhere I went. The only odd thing was that in Hong Kong even though I would enter the destination in the App they would always ask me where I wanted to go. I could see it on the map on their smartphone on the dashboard, but I still had to restated it each time. Speaking of putting the destination in the Uber App this also cuts down on the potential language barrier. Often in Paris the driver barely spoke English and having the destination in the Uber App made it much easier to get to where I was going.
Using ATMs and Credit Cards
My corporate card for expenses is an American Express card. While this is pretty much accepted everywhere in the US these days, it’s hit or miss in other countries and especially at smaller merchants. Hotels, no problem, but trying to use American Express at shops and cafe’s will usually result in you pulling out a different card. Visa and Master Card are accepted everywhere that cards are accepted, but you should make sure that your card is a newer one outfitted with a “chip”. The EMV chip that you’re probably seeing on all your new credit cards is pretty standard outside the US and will be a standard here by the end of the year. Some of the overseas merchants can’t process your card if it doesn’t have the chip. This is for your protection too as cards with chips are less likely to be spoofed/hacked. This will be even more the case for automated payment systems such as parking garages and train stations. My ATM Debit card doesn’t have the chip yet but I’ve yet to have a problem withdrawing money at BANK ATM machines. It’s also a good idea to alert your bank that you’re going to be out of the country so they don’t flag your transactions as fraud.
Yes Apple Pay works too in many places, but not all. I was able to use Apple Pay in most places in Paris.
As a matter of fact I never realized how happy I’d be to use Apple Pay until I had to use the rest room in Milan and it was a pay toilet. I had no change!
Lastly while we’re on the subject of credit cards, it’s a good idea to remove any cards that you know you’re not going to use abroad before you leave home. Only take the credit cards that you know you’re going to use, your driver’s license, health insurance card and of course you’ll need your Passport. This way if your wallet is stolen the damage will be minimized.
Making calls and texting
International roaming is notoriously expensive. While I’m grandfathered in to an old AT&T plan for unlimited international data (I know right!), calls by the minute are still expensive and international SMS (text) messages are crazy expensive. I rarely make calls on my iPhone when I’m traveling but when I do I do it using data instead. In iOS if I’m calling another iOS user I can simply use FaceTime Audio. If not I can use either Vonage or Skype. Of course FaceTime and Skype can also be used for video calls. iMessage uses data instead of cellular for text messages between iOS users. When I want to text non-iOS users I typically use WhatsApp Messenger. This cross platform App lets you text, send photos, etc, just like SMS/MMS messages without using your expensive international text messaging rates. If you find a WiFi hotspot to use then all of the above can be done for free.
Getting through airport security with your gear
I get really frustrated by international airport security. If you think TSA is a hassle in the US, wait the you go abroad. On the plus side you’ll likely be able to keep your shoes on in most places, but when it comes to your belt and electronics be prepared to pretty much empty your bag. Things that can usually stay in your bag in the US like your iPad and camera, almost always have to come out at international airports. If the xray operator sees anything resembling a gadget or wad of cables you will be taking that stuff out and sending your bag back through. You can also forget leaving your laptop in a TSA approved bag. It will need to come out. Your camera and more often than not even your lenses will need to come out too. Empty your pockets. If you walk in prepared to do all of this then you will get through faster.
In this day of online checkin and electronic boarding passes one of the last things you’ll probably think about is having a printed itinerary. I know I didn’t used to think about having any printed documents until the one time I was coming back from India and the armed airport guard wasn’t going to let me into the airport without one. After much pleading I was able to convince him to look at the one on my iPhone. I knew from that point on to have a printed itinerary for every international trip. While you’re at it make a copy of the picture page of your passport and put it in every piece of luggage you have.
The 5 Most Useful Apps When Traveling Internationally
These are the 5 Apps that were the most useful during my travels:
FlightTrack 5 is my favorite flight management tool. I loaded all my flights in before heading out and the app kept me updated on delays and more importantly for international travel which terminal I’d be departing from in each country.
When you’re in a different country then chances are the prices you see in stores, restaurants, etc. will be in the local currency. XE Currency provides a great view of multiple currencies all at once. You can easily swap between any currency you want to be the main currency.
Unless you’re bi-lingual you will probably encounter someone you need to communicate with that speaks very little of your native tongue. Speak & Translate is hands down the best audible language translator app that I’ve seen to date.
When I was in Hong Kong it was raining most of the time. The standard built-in iOS weather app just wasn’t accurate enough to let me know what time the rain would clear for me to go out and shoot. On the other hand Accuweather was very very accurate giving me the most accurate times of day when there would be no rain.
Travel is constantly evolving. It’s fun going to new places and seeing different cultures. Once you solve the typical connectivity issues I addressed above then you can concentrate on having a good time and enjoying the trip. I would also recommend keeping a pen on your person especially on flight days to fill out customs forms and a small travel umbrella is a must have depending on where you’re headed. Every hotel I stayed in had in-room safes that are free to use. I recommend that you store any valuables and gear that you’re not going to be using before you head out sightseeing. Safe travels and sound off in the comments if you’ve got any questions. I hope my tips for traveling internationally help you out.
Going to Photoshop World 2015 in Vegas next week?
If so you can SAVE $50 by registering here with the Discount Code: TerryWhite50
As a portrait and fashion photographer I rarely have to worry about weather because I’m usually shooting in studio and controlling the lighting and environment. However, when I travel I become a travel/landscape photographer and just let me admit that it’s way way way more challenging. The 3rd stop on my Adobe tour took me to Hong Kong. Since it was my first trip to Hong Kong and I had plenty of time (a week) I was in no rush to go out shooting on day one. I arrived late Friday evening and on Saturday it looked like the shot above.
I went out for lunch and captured the above shot with my iPhone 6 Plus. Nothing special, just looking up and snapping a pic. I enjoyed lunch by the pool an thought, “wow! what a great weekend!” Well it all came to an end on Sunday. On Sunday it started raining and well it never really stopped.
I booked a city tour for Monday morning and it rained the entire time. That’s when I realized that:
Don’t procrastinate. If you can get out and shoot on a good day, DO IT! Had I gone out on the same tour on Saturday I would have had a fantastic day for capturing the city.
You have to make the most of shooting in crappy weather. If the weather is not going to change by the time you leave an iconic location, then you have to do your best to get some good shots.
In my case I figured I can’t make it stop raining, so therefore I would shoot things that are supposed to be wet. My tour took me to “The Peak” first and quite frankly it was a disaster for shooting with pouring rain conditions:
This is the shot I got from The Peak while it was pouring rain.
While the NEW Dehaze feature in Lightroom CC does wonders and with a few adjustments I was able to get something that was somewhat usable, it was clearly not my best work and didn’t do the scene justice.
Later in the tour we went to fishing villages and that’s when I applied my theory of shooting things that are ok if they’re wet. I got one of my favorite shots above.
Take the opportunity to shoot the local community interacting with the elements. In the case of rain perhaps target a sea of umbrellas in an urban setting, the cars going by and splashing puddles of water. Had I brought my macro lens I probably would have focused in on the drops of water on the leaves.
Luckily the weather did clear up for a few hours on Tuesday and I didn’t hesitate to go back to The Peak as well as taking the Star ferry over to Kowloon to capture Hong Kong from the other side.
The Bottom Line
If you’re going to shoot, shoot! Don’t take chances that the weather will be just as good tomorrow as it is today. If you are just stuck with bad weather, think of creative ways to shoot outside your comfort zone. Work the weather to your advantage.
Going to Photoshop World 2015 in Vegas?
If so you can SAVE $50 by registering here with the Discount Code: TerryWhite50