life lessons learned from travel | Jenn of Near + Far

travel changes you, and teaches you things. but you don't have to leave those lessons on the road. Jenn of Near and Far Montana traveled all over the world before settling down in Montana for a farm life. now she's using those lessons learned in her 20s to adjust to a new life in a not-so-far away but definitely different setting.

During my senior year of college, I studied abroad in New Zealand. The trip involved months of paperwork, research, preparation and packing. While there, I was a good student focused on my purpose -- learning. But I also learned how to travel solo.

I researched and booked my own trips about the South Island and later the North Island. During a study break, while everyone else was prepping for exams, I hopped a plane to Australia for two weeks.

After coming back, I was interning in Virginia and the bosses couldn’t seem to make a decision about whether to hire me or not. So I told them that while they were figuring that out, I was going to London for two weeks.

On that flight that I realized I really could pick a place, pack a bag and go anywhere in the world. I didn’t need anyone else’s permission. I didn’t need to wait for someone to go with me. I didn’t need to plan forever or wait for everything to be perfect.

I just needed to go.

For most of my 20s, that was a huge part of my life. New Zealand, Australia, London, Peru, Slovenia, Paris, Italy, Chile. I went exploring, adventuring, wandering. I went when and where I wanted. And I went alone.

Then I moved to Montana in 2013. The same year I turned 30.

I moved to be with a boy. Then we bought a house. Then we got chickens. Now we’re looking at more animals and starting a small farm.

I’d never been to Montana and I call myself a Virginia girl. It may be the U.S., but it really is far from home.

Two years in and I still find myself struggling to understand my town some days. They have a different history, experience and a perspective that’s often a near opposite of an East Coaster.

I’m finding that while I may be in my own country, I can apply all those lessons travel taught me in my 20s.

Our pace isn’t as frantic as it was on my two-week adventures around entire countries, but the boyfriend and I are slowly exploring Montana. Our travels are less about sights and more about getting out of town, into nature now.

If I want to leave the country on an adventure, boyfriend would be fine with that, but with animals and crops and a house, there’s more to consider when I feel the urge to book a flight.

There’s still so many places that I long to see, but I know I could also spend a lifetime exploring the wild outdoors of Montana.

I’m learning a slower way of exploring, of immersing myself deeper into a new place than I’ve ever done as an adult – I’m not counting moving a lot as a military kid since it was all about making friends at school.

What might be the biggest change is learning how to do all this exploring with another person. A person who’s travel style is so different from my own.

I may not get to travel abroad as often as I’d like to these days, but all those lessons learned in far off places are helping me better connect with what is now my home. To be able to manage those feelings of home sickness, to explore like a tourist when I can, to make fast friends like I would abroad, to have a sense of place and to let all of that continue molding me into a person who will never stop exploring.

Jenn is an East Coast girl blogging at Near and Far Montana about making a life out west. By day she's a newspaper reporter and spends the rest of her time chasing puppies, feeding chickens and teaching kids to figure skate.

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travel by iPhone // New Zealand favorites

hiiiiii! we are back from an epic [and I mean EPIC] three week journey through New Zealand, and one overnight layover in Seoul. it seems to be my habit to write a nice rambling list-ish post whenever I return from a trip. so, well... here are some thoughts. interspersed with my favorite iPhone photos from the trip [many courtesy of my patient Husband.]

I am both so sad for our trip to be over, and completely overjoyed to be home. which I've decided to take as a sign that our trip was just long enough. marriages and friendships are still intact, but another week may have done us all in.

New Zealand is just as fantastic and beautiful as everyone makes it out to be. if you ever have the chance, GO. I know it's far for most and can be expensive. but it is so worth it.

I hope you've enjoyed the travel tips and stories from the ladies who helped fill in while I was gone [one more coming later this week] and a HUGE thanks to them for helping me out. I wish I could say I look forward to catching up on all the blog news since I've been gone... but I think this is one of those "mark all as read" instances.

while we were in NZ I bought a fitbit. and I'm kindof in love with it. I can't figure out how to find friends on it though, so if you have one and want to hang out let me know... I think now that I'm not hiking all over NZ I will need some motivation to get out and about.

I am drowning in photos. you're going to be seeing NZ through my lens for a long time... but I promise you'll love it. now if only I could figure out where to start. [hence the random smattering of phone photos in this post.]

I'm super itchy to start on a blog redesign. I can hardly believe it's been since last July that I've made any major design changes. I don't exactly know what the new blog will look like yet, but I'm pretty sure you'll notice once it takes effect.

and that's all the random I have for you today. if you have any questions about New Zealand, let me know in the comments and I'll work on answering them in the 400 billion upcoming NZ posts over the next few months. xo


5 Travel Failures + Lessons Learned | Margo of The Overseas Escape

I think everyone has a travel horror story to tell... and the more you travel, the more likely you are to encounter unfortunate situations. but. these can also be learning experiences. today, the well-traveled Margo of The Overseas Escape is sharing some of her worst travel moments, and the lessons she's learned from them. I know I will definitely be paying more attention to my electrical adaptors from now on!



What happened: On a direct flight from Athens to Dulles (~ 12 hours) I sat in the middle of the middle row. Needing to cross two people on either side of me, getting up and about was not an enjoyable process for anyone. Better yet, a little girl sat directly in front of me and wanted to play peek-a-boo the entire flight. Multiple times I woke up to find her staring at me. The lesson: For long haul flights bring a sleep mask. This little fabric can make or break a flight. Check-in online as soon as you are able, typically 24 hours in advance, and aim for an aisle or window seat. Noise canceling headphones are a bonus.


What happened: Using an adaptor instead of a convertor, I plugged my straightener in the wall of my Aunt’s house in UK and began skimming a magazine as I ran the straightener through my hair. It wasn’t until I smelled the burning of hair (a horrible stench) that I realized my straightener was melting itself and my hair at the same time. For 3 weeks I had to wear a ponytail because my crunchy hair would do nothing else. When I returned to the States I had to get the whole thing chopped off. The lesson: Know the difference between an adaptor and a convertor. Here is a helpful article from REI all about it.



What happened: In a rush to get to my gate, I accidentally spilled hot tea all over my hand and arm. I let out a yelp and dropped the entire cup on the ground. The restaurant thankfully gave me burn cream and wrapped it but I couldn’t help but feel like an idiot. The lesson: Slow it down. You’ll make it to the flight. If there’s a chance you won’t, don’t run with hot liquids. (Yes, I agree, it’s something I should have remembered from elementary school.) A lot of people get anxiety at the airport or train station. There’s a whirl of activity and it can be overwhelming. Do your best to focus on what actually matters, getting to the right gate or platform, then consider snacks and people watching.


What happened: I used TripAdvisor to find a meeting point for my coworker and I in Spain. It turns out that the TripAdvisor map was completely wrong and the bar was located in another town 40 miles away. We didn’t link up until almost 4 hours later after we both found wifi. The lesson: When designating meet-up locations do not use TripAdvisor or arbitrarily pick a small pub or bar. Chains like Starbucks or McDonalds are ideal, they’re small enough to find someone (versus a giant train station) and have reliable websites identifying their exact locations.



What happened: I was craving ice cream so I asked the clerk at the train station in Ronda, Spain for “heladeria” (meaning ice cream parlor, not ice cream). Blank stare. “Leche Frio?” (meaning cold milk, still not ice cream). Blank stare. Giving up, “tea dulce y agua” (thinking I was saying 'sweet tea and water') as I handed him my water bottle to fill in the sink and eyed the bottles of cold tea in the fridge behind him. The final result? A water bottle of hot tea. No water, no tea, no ice cream. Sad face. The lesson: Bring a phrase book! Count on my English speakers in larger cities but to be safe, always bring along a paper guide for reference. (Sure enough, your phone will die at exactly the wrong time.)


Hi guys! I'm Margo, an expat living in Germany and I blog at The Overseas Escape about my travels around Europe. I love sharing my adventures like kayaking in Ireland, hiking in Spain, and partying at Oktoberfest, as well as travel tips such as 10 1-week European Itineraries and How To: Tip in Europe. Check it out!


5 reasons to visit Iceland in winter | Kaelene of Unlocking Kiki

life as an expat in Iceland might be about as different from life as an expat in Taiwan as you can get. though I certainly don't miss the cold, I can't help but be jealous of the beautiful winter wonderland that Kaelene of Unlocking Kiki gets to experience. I have not seen snow in over 3 years! thankfully, I can get my fill of snowy photos through her blog.

Hi everyone! I am Kaelene from Unlocking Kiki, a girl from Oregon figuring out life in Iceland with my Viking. While Jamie is off exploring the beautiful New Zealand (I am so jealous!) I am here to convince you all that Iceland needs to be added to your winter travel list, like right now!


I know what you're thinking, Iceland, isn't that basically the north pole and always freezing? This may sound crazy but Iceland is really not as cold as it sounds. Don't get me wrong, right now I am freezing my bum off, but the temperature rarely goes below zero so don't write it off just yet. So hear me out and read these 5 reasons why visiting Iceland in the winter is worth braving the cold! 

1. Avoid the crowds 

It seems like everyone is visiting Iceland these days, and with so many people heading this way that means one thing, crowds. Opt for visiting Iceland during the winter months and have a front row seat to the geyser erupting, walk downtown Reykjavik and actual be able to take in all the sights and get close enough to all those stunning waterfalls and feel the spray of the water on your face. 

2. The perfect "golden hour" lighting 

With only 4 hours of daylight during the winter months the sun never fully rises here in Iceland. The benefit of this, perfect lighting for all those pictures you will most definitely be taking. Just be sure to get out and take full advantage of those few precious hours of daylight, even if it is cold outside you won't be disappointed! 


3. The Northern Lights 

Is seeing the Northern Lights high on your bucket list? Book a trip to Iceland during the winter months and finally cross the Northern Lights off your list! For your best chance to view the northern lights head this way November-March and keep your fingers crossed for clear skies. 

4. The 13 Icelandic Santas 

Reykjavik is a beautiful city all year long but Christmas time is when it really shines. To all my fellow Christmas lovers out there take note, a trip to Reykjavik in December is a must. Send a letter to Santa, admire the Christmas lights twinkling all over town, and don't forget to go on a search for the Christmas elves popping up everywhere. Any country that has 13 Santas knows how to celebrate Christmas right! 


5. Snow, lots of snow

Iceland is always beautiful, but Iceland covered in snow, it takes things to another level. Snow covered waterfalls around every corner, sunsets that reflect pink onto the snow, trees sparkling with snow covered branches, the list could go on. One thing is for certain, when snow covers Iceland it creates a scene fit for a fairytale. Sometimes braving the colder temperatures is worth it, and visiting Iceland in the winter is definitely one of those times! 

So who is ready to bust out the winter gear and head over to Iceland? Want to learn more about this unique country I am living in? Check out my Iceland page and spark your desire to visit Iceland even more! I love visitors so head over to Unlocking Kiki and say hi! Bloglovin'TwitterInstagramFacebook


5 Reasons to Visit Moscow ASAP | Polly of AG&HT

Moscow may not be high on everyone's travel wishlist, but Polly's gorgeous photos and witty writing on A Girl and Her Travels have made me add it to mine. I think there's a lot more to Russia than the stereotypes us Americans have been exposed to through movies, and it's something I'd like to see for myself. Polly makes a few convincing arguments why a visit to Moscow is something you should seriously consider [and soon!]

Hi. My name's Polly and I have a problem. I compulsively try to convince people to visit Moscow. You see, I've been living in Moscow, Russia since 2010 and I constantly hear horrible things about my adopted home in western press. Sure, things aren't always rainbows and butterflies, but the truth is that Moscow is an incredibly safe, vibrant country that every traveler should have the chance to explore. Here's why:

1. The horrible ruble rate.

If you haven't been following the news lately, I'll let you in on the TL;DR: in 2014 the Russian ruble lost about 50% of its value. Yup, at the start of the year it was trading somewhere around 33 to the US dollar. Now? It's 'recovered' to right around 60-61 to the dollar. This is great news for travelers as it means the normally exorbitant hotel and restaurant prices are now... almost normal priced. Come quick though; the Russian economy isn't slated to get any better for at least two years so soon inflation will get those prices rising.

2. The beauty of Russian winter.

Unless you come from a place where a sweatshirt is appropriate winter wear, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by Moscow winter. Sure there are some absolutely bone chilling days (once this month we were down to a nice -25F with wind chill), but usually the temperature for most of winter is much closer to freezing. Plus, once you get outside and see Red Square with a dusting of snow, you'll be in such traveler's bliss you probably won't even realize your toes are freezing off.

3. The Orthodox churches.

The one thing that boggles my mind is how consistently unimpressed Russians are by the over-the-top gorgeousness of their Orthodox churches. Visitors, on the other hand, are usually floored. After four years of living in Moscow, I'm still overwhelmed every time I turn the corner and see a church. I'm not even talking the big ones like Saint Basil's or the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. There's literally a jaw-dropping church on every one of Moscow's side streets. 

4. The metro system.

Moscow's metro system, aside from being incredibly cheap and super convenient, is one of the most beautiful public works of art in the world. With close to 7 million people riding the 327.5 km long system daily, it could take weeks or even months to get a good look at each of the over-the-top stations. I recently wrote a post outlining my personal favorites if you'd like a more in-depth look.

5. The people.

I know the stereotypes about grim-faced Russians and have investigated further to conclude... Yes, Russians do look really mean. Russians are very, very kind to their friends and acquaintances. Strangers? Not so much. The long and short of it is this: We think Russians are mean because they’re guarded. Russians think Americans are stupid because they smile for no reason. Everyone’s a critic.

 So, the only thing left is: when are you coming to visit?

Polly blogs at A Girl and Her Travels about life as an American expat in Russia. She's lived in Moscow since 2010, working as an ESL teacher to the CEOs of major oil companies and some of the richest 5-year-olds in the world. Thankfully she's about to leave that world behind and is planning her triumphant return to the USA. She's currently a freelance writer and the editor-in-chief of Like a Local Mag.


5 National Park Sites You Should Visit | Christina of Route Bliss

you don't have to cross an ocean to find a beautiful destination. today I am happy to have longtime ink + adventure supporter, Christina of Route Bliss, sharing some gems from the good old USA. while I spent a lot of time traveling through the states with my family growing up, I've only ever been to one of the parks she highlights below. read on, go say hello, and start planning your next road trip!

Hello everyone! I'm Christina from Route Bliss. If you've ever dropped by my blog, especially on Wednesdays, you've probably figured out that I've visited a lot of national parks/scenic destinations in the U.S. To date, I've set foot in or driven through 33 various National Park Service sites (Parks, Preserves, Monuments, Battlegrounds, Parkways, Memorials, Seashores, Recreation Areas ...). While there are some big ones -- like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton that I am head over heels in love with -- there are many that are overlooked due to their size or location that I've enjoyed just as much as the popular parks. While they rarely pop up in a top 5 or top 10 list, these five parks are definitely worth a visit if you're looking to get away from it all and relax ... primarily due to the fact that you won't be dealing with as many crowds or full parking lots when you visit! Oh, and they are full of natural beauty as well. PS: I realize none of these are east of the Mississippi River -- that's because I've only been to one NPS location on the east side of the Mississippi to date!

  Ttheodore Roosevelt National Park 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- North Dakota

Raise your hand if you knew there was a national park named after Teddy Roosevelt, the president responsible for the U.S. having what's now known as the National Park Service? Most people don't (here's more on his conservation efforts for the curious). I didn't know about it until a reality show on tv several years ago accidently went to the wrong location in the upper Midwest based on a clue (they were supposed to go to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota but went to the NP instead). Anyway, TRNP is smack in the middle of the Badlands of Western North Dakota. It has two units -- appropriately named North Unit and South Unit. I only visited the North Unit (near Watford City) due to time after a visitor center in a nearby town told me that with limited time, it was the better option; I'd planned on stopping at the South Unit (near Medora) since it had a petrified forest. Some of my favorite images from my 2009 roadtrip came from this park (like this one). I also didn't get quite this close to the bison in Yellowstone since they stayed a bit further from the roadways and scenic pullouts. During our visit, there were a lot of bison out and about, so we stayed in our vehicle for safety's sake. Entrance fee assessed ... purchase an annual NPS pass if visiting multiple park sites within a year. For more information, visit the TRNP NPS site.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve -- Colorado

When you think of Colorado, the natural feature that comes to mind is mountains, not sand dunes. Well, in the southern part of the state right in the middle of the San Juan Mountain Range near Alamosa is this vista ... and if you visit while there's still snow melt-off, you can enjoy Medano Creek (pictured in the foreground above) as well. You can hike up through the dunes, sand surf down them, wade in the creek, or take a hike through other parts of the park. Entrance fee assessed ... purchase an annual NPS pass if visiting multiple park sites within a year. For more information, visit the GSDNP&P NPS site.

Valles Caldera National Preserve 

Valles Caldera National Preserve -- New Mexico

While Valles Caldera isn't listed on the NPS website when you do a search of the parks in New Mexico, it is a national preserve near Los Alamos and Jemez Springs, New Mexico that borders Bandelier National Monument. We discovered this hidden gem when we stopped for a restroom break at the New Mexico Welcome Center on I-40 East; my brother found a brochure while I was taking photos of the "Welcome to New Mexico sign" out front, so we decided to wait and see if we'd happened be close by when we were at Bandelier. When we realized how close (at least as the crow flies) we were upon leaving Bandelier, we made the trek over instead of going into Los Alamos as originally planned. And I'm so glad we did despite the steep switchback road we never got above 35 mph on (boo to 4 cylinder engines!) ... check out that view above! That was looking out to the north as we stopped on the bridge across the creek on the gravel road at the main entrance. We also saw a momma and baby elk off to the south as well. While we didn't have time to spare to take the bus tour further into the preserve, its on my list of places to go back to sooner than later. Fee assessed based on activities. For more information, visit the VCNP website. 

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument -- Wyoming

Devils Tower is one of the smaller parks/monuments I've visited in the Western U.S., but the tower itself is visible for miles as you drive in through the edge of the Black Hills to the park (I honestly can't remember how many miles away we were when I took this photo, easily 10-15 miles). The tower itself is considered sacred to a number of Native American tribes, who hold religious ceremonies there, and is also a destination for climbers; there is a voluntary climbing closure during the month of June when religious ceremonies are being held. If you visit during June like I did, you'll notice there are items in trees along the trail from the visitors center to the tower; those are prayer bundles, do not disturb them! Also, you have to do the touristy thing -- along the route in (coming from the east/South Dakota), pull over a few miles out from the turnoff and take a photo of yourself leaning against/pinching/holding/pushing down on the tower! Entrance fee assessed ... purchase an annual NPS pass if visiting multiple park sites within a year. For more information, visit the DTNM NPS website

Hot Springs National Park 

Hot Springs National Park -- Arkansas

Once a resort for the well-to-do, its now open to everyone. And for the most part, its free! Tour the Fordyce Bathhouse to see what a bathhouse was like when Hot Springs was the IT place to visit, then drop in at the Lamar Bathhouse to pick up some regionally made spa products or to stamp your National Parks Passport. There's also a spout near the right end of Bathhouse Row where you can fill up bottles and jugs with the mineral water for free. Don't have a jug on you? No problem -- buy a glass one at Lamar Bathhouse or walk across the street to one of the non NPS souvenir shops and snag a plastic one for less than a buck. Behind Bathhouse Row is a shaded Grand Promenade that's worth a leisurely stroll; access it from either end of Bathhouse Row or next to the Fordyce Bathhouse. For those looking for something a bit more strenuous, hike one of the marked trails from behind the bathhouses up the side of the mountain to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower (pictured above, bottom left. A fee is assessed to go to the top of the tower as it is operated by a concessioner.). At the top of Hot Springs Mountain, there's a viewpoint near the tower (pictured above; upper right) that allows you to look out on Hot Springs without paying a fee if you're on a budget. After you're done, pop in at Buckstaff Bathhouse or the Quapaw Baths and Spa (pictured above, upper left) to experience a bathhouse up close and personal. There's plenty other activities in Hot Springs that make it perfect for a weekend getaway. Interesting factoid I snagged off the footer of their homepage: The water emerging from the hot springs in Hot Springs National Park fell as rain when the pyramids of Egypt were built—4400 years ago! For more information, visit the HSNP NPS website.

 To see more photos of my travels through these parks and others, pop over to Route Bliss or follow me on Instagram! Thanks so much Jamie for letting me fill in while you're enjoying New Zealand this month!


my favorite photography gear

"what camera do you use?" is probably the question I get asked most in comments and emails. I've finally put together this post [with pictures of my gear of course] to try and answer that question. bear in mind that every person has different preferences, and my choices have been heavily influenced by the fact that most of my photography is travel related. therefore, the gear I use most is compact and lightweight.

Canon EOS M

this mirrorless camera has become my go-to for travel photography. it's compact and lightweight, and doesn't draw attention from potential thieves like a large, expensive DSLR might. the model I purchased in March 2013 came with a 22mm f2 lens, which I use for the majority of my photos. I also have the adaptor which will allow you to connect any Canon EF compatible lens.

one of my favorite features of this camera is the rear touchscreen. it features a live preview of what your shot will look like given the current settings. it makes using manual a no-brainer when I can see just how much brighter my photo will be by opening up the aperture one fstop, or bumping up the ISO. the EOS M offers all the same manual and partial modes as a DSLR [M, Av, Tv...] but also includes the "creative filter" modes that Canon uses for their point-and-shoots.

this camera [or any mirrorless system] is perfect for someone looking to upgrade from a point-and-shoot but not wanting to commit to a full DSLR, anyone who wants to start learning manual settings, or the traveler who doesn't want to be weighed down by their gear. currently, Canon has all but stopped selling the EOS M in the US market. there is speculation that they will be releasing an updated mirrorless system this year, but until then you can still find the M in Europe, Asia, and on Amazon.

Canon EOS Rebel Xsi

this camera was my very first DSLR, purchased in 2009. though my EOS M has a higher megapixel count [18 on the M, 12.2 on the Xsi], this camera still creates beautiful images. one of the best investments I made was to purchase two lenses for this camera body - having quality glass really makes a difference in your images. first, I upgraded from the included kit lens to a Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 zoom lens. this was a more affordable option than the nearest Canon equivalent, and I have had no complaints. second is my beloved Canon 50mm f1.8 lens. at less than a hundred dollars, this lens is probably the most bang for your buck you can get. I used this lens religiously when shooting for my food blog, and continue to use it today with both my Rebel and my M.

I've used several neck straps with this camera, but as pictured above, I have equipped it with a CIESTA leather handstrap. is it a little less safe? maybe. but I was tired of getting myself tangled in the neck strap every time I wanted to pull my camera out of my bag [or put it back in.] for days when I plan to be shooting all day, I still use the neck strap to take some stress off my hand.

Canon continues to roll out Rebel DSLRs, the latest of which is the T5i model. if you are interested in a DSLR, my advice would be to buy the basic camera body and spend the extra money on lens upgrades. while a DSLR and zoom lens combination can be bulky and heavy for travel, there is something to be said for the feel of a good, solid camera in your hands. I don't use my Rebel often anymore but I doubt I'll ever get rid of it.

Instax mini 25

I purchased this quirky instant camera in 2012, with the intent of using it for a 52 weeks project [which I completed in 2013.] I had never had experience with instant film before, but using this camera is so. much. fun. I love having physical keepsakes from my travels, and the small credit-card sized photos come in a variety of film colors and designs.

there is a bit of a learning curve, and things never turn out just perfect with instant film. but I use this camera mostly for the fun. I have an entire wall in my apartment covered in instax memories, and it just makes me smile whenever I look at it. the film runs between $8 to $10 US per pack of 10 exposures, depending if you are buying plain white or rainbow colored or Hello Kitty themed. it's not always the most practical thing in my camera bag, but I love my instax anyway.

iPhone 5c

phone cameras have come a long way. I've always used my phone for instagramming, but since upgrading to the iPhone 5c in 2014 I have taken so many I even started a "travel by iPhone" series. sometimes, you don't want to carry around a bulky camera. sometimes, you don't want to be obvious you are taking a photo. using your cell phone can be the perfect solution. [although mine is hot pink and currently equipped with a Cheshire Cat case I got at Tokyo Disney, so not really very subtle.]

one item that is not pictured here but has been handy in the past is a lifeproof phone case. I had one for my old iPhone 4 and it was perfect for beaches, inclement weather, and clumsy Jamies. I found the case obscured the camera lens a bit and the photos were not as clear, but I'm hoping to pick up a newer model of the case soon and that they will have improved that issue.

assorted gadgets

as you probably noticed above, I recently bought a selfie stick. I have not had much chance to play with it, but you can bet there will be some epic shots coming soon from New Zealand. the bundle I purchased also came with a muku labs shuttr phone remote - no need to rely on the self timer.

I also have a remote that works with both my EOS M and Rebel Xsi. I purchased this Canon RC-1 back in 2010, and in combination with my tripod [not pictured here] it has been key for self-portraits, low light shots, and of course the blood moon eclipse. not pictured is a full-size Olympus tripod that I picked up for around $30 US. some days I wish it was a little taller, but it's sturdy and gets the job done.

the strange green gadget is a gorillapod. it's a mini tripod with fully flexible and bendable legs that allow you to situate your camera just about anywhere. I originally purchased this in 2009 to work with my old point-and-shoot, but the EOS M is light enough to work with this model. [they also sell a sturdier version intended for DSLR use.]

my brain

ok, hear me out. my philosophy on photography is that the photographer creates the image, not the equipment. and therefore, my brain [or maybe my "eye"] is the most important gear I have. the good news is that you don't have to spend thousands of dollars to create beautiful images. the bad news is that you actually have to practice and work at developing your photography. quality gear can help, but only to a point. you [and you brain] will have to put some effort in to improve.

and now I will shamelessly plug that I'm planning to post a series of photography tutorials over the next few months. so hopefully all our photography will be improving - mine by the practice and the creating, yours by the reading and the trying. if you are interested in learning something specific, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

what is your go-to camera? do you have any photography questions you'd like me to answer in a future post?
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