Tag Archives: travel

Travel photography application shows where to take that perfect tourist postcard picture

2017-01-11

Accidental travel photographers tend to take photos at the same places where everyone else is taking pictures. If you want your travel pictures to look better than 99% of all photos taken in that same spot, you may want a little help from an expert. The travel photography expert is called Snapfindr, an app that runs on your smartphone or tablet.
snapfindr app screen shot
Snapfindr is a free application that shows you the exact locations of major sights in the most popular travel destinations where to take that perfect postcard image. At the moment, the application covers the top sights of Barcelona, London, New York, Paris, Prague, and Sydney.

Let’s say you are exploring Paris. You find the famous Notre Dame cathedral, and want to take a memorable photograph of the place. Snapfindr shows you exactly where to stand and which direction to point your camera. If you have a camera where you can adjust the settings, the application gives you tips on them as well. Notre Dame is only one of the locations in Paris the app covers. You can navigate from destination to destination using an online map or embedded sample images.

All right, that is what Snapfindr can do. Then, there is only a question of how and for what you use it for. Maybe you don’t want to take the same images as everyone else is taking during sightseeing tours. Perhaps there are even better ways to use Snapfindr?

One of the best use cases for this application is learning travel photography. The persons who have taken the images included in the app and written the notes for camera settings and related remarks are very skilled photographers. Anyone who wants to learn the first steps in classic travel photography can get many valuable lessons in Snapfindr:

– How to position yourself and your camera.
– How to frame the subject.
– Timing: what is the time of the day when you get the most spectacular images.
– Camera settings for that perfect picture.

Snapfindr even features sample images taken on the spot for you to compare your snapshot with the teacher’s mastershot.

For more travel photography, take a look at our writers’ galleries.

Snapfindr screen shots:
screen capture of snapfindr application

screen capture of snapfindr application

screen capture of snapfindr application

Are travel coloring books the ultimate relaxation option on the road?

2016-12-01

There are times during every traveler’s journey when it would be smart to switch off brains from constant planning ahead, working, or worrying about what can go wrong. Some (printed) book publisher believe they have a cure for traveler’s anxiety: the travel coloring book. Coloring books for adults were recently popular, but now, it is possible to find a coloring book for your special interest, such as travel.
travel coloring books, cover images
The theory is that since the world inside a travel coloring book is already organized and static, the tourist can manage the world drawn on the pages of the book by coloring it the way he or she wants. It is supposed to take your thoughts away from anything that may burden your mind and from everything around you.

Maybe that is exactly why many travelers have their music collection on a smartphone or on an iPod with them and they listen to their favorite artists when they want some distance to the world around. Some travelers, surprisingly, read books, whereas others watch movies, or sip gin and tonics.

There are many ways to relax on the road apart from coloring books. Yet, it is an interesting trend. Whoever was the mastermind that thought of producing coloring books for adults must be congratulated. Creating a new trend is once-in-a-lifetime event.

If you want to color Paris or San Francisco on your flight across the Atlantic or the American continent, it is possible (Amazon). Or perhaps you would like recolor 30 World Heritage Sites in your favorite colors? Kobo bookstore markets ebooks that contain drawings that you can print out and then recolor.

The New York Times discovered that some upmarket hotels give guests coloring books and crayons as they check in. There was a time when it was cool to have the morning’s newspaper delivered behind your hotel room door in the morning, and a time when Wi-Fi was new. Now, it is books.

What about ebooks? Are there any coloring ebooks that you could use on your Kindle ereader or on the iPad tablet? Not really. While it is possible to produce an ebook application or Apple iAuthor book that lets you change colors of objects on the screen, these types of interactive multimedia ebooks are very expensive to create. Travel guidebooks that feature reliable and useful information on your destination can be viewed here.

If the coloring book trend continues after 2016, we may see a few ebook coloring books in the market. Otherwise, it is the old, proven paper, ink and crayon technology that dominates the coloring book business.

Top 20 countries for travelers who have vowed only to speak English on their journey

2016-11-27

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, Spanish is the second, and English third. Nonetheless, the language of the biggest corporations, largest media services, most popular pop stars, books and movies is English. If French used to be the universal language of the world hundred years ago, English took its place in the 20th century. There are many countries across the world where you can step out of an airplane, talk English with locals during your whole trip, and return home without learning a word of local language.
EF: top English speaking countries
Language education institution EF has collected a list of 20 countries where it is easy to get along in English alone. So, if you like to travel, but like to speak English only, North Europe is your first choice as far as language is concerned.

Here is the top 20 English Proficiency Index by EF Education First:

1. Netherlands
2. Denmark
3. Sweden
4. Norway
5. Finland
6. Singapore
7. Luxembourg
8. Austria
9. Germany
10. Poland
11. Belgium
12. Malaysia
13. Philippines
14. Switzerland
15. Portugal
16. Czech Republic
17. Serbia
18. Hungary
19. Argentina
20. Romania

All but 4 out of 20 top English-speaking countries are in Europe.

Practically everyone (50 years old or younger) in Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines speak English, but it may take a little time for a foreigner to get used to the accent if you are only used to native English-speakers accent.

Which countries EF has ranked the most challenging if you only speak English? Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Laos, Libya, and Iraq are countries where many languages are spoken, but English isn’t one of them.

Do marketers’ travel slogans really attract tourists to visit a country?

2016-11-23

Probably every country in the world, apart from closed societies like North Korea or disorganized regions like Somalia, has a state-powered marketing organization whose responsibility is to attract more tourists to the country. Nothing wrong with that, tourism is one of the largest industries in the world today, and some countries rely their national budgets on tourism. You may have met people from these marketing organizations at travel fairs where the marketers have been keen to offer a brochure or a plastic bag with a slogan on it. That slogan is supposed to make their country attractive for potential visitors.

Family Break Finder has published a marvelous map that shows all the slogans the world’s tourism organizations are using at the moment. The slogans tend to change after a few years, but this is how the world of travel marketing slogans looks right now.

Among the best slogans is Norway’s “Powered by nature” that really nails the essence of touring in Norway’s magnificent landscape. Among the worst is Australia’s “There’s NOTHING like Australia” (if you have nothing to say, it doesn’t get any better by shouting). India’s slogan “Incredible India” is so true just now that it makes you wonder did they really mean it (trains don’t travel along rail tracks in India anymore, and people are desperate because they can’t get cash from banks).
tourism slogans by family break finderSource: Family Break Finder.

Albania – Go your own way!
Algeria – Tourism for everybody
Andorra – The Pyrenean Country
Antigua and Barbuda – The beach is just the beginning
Argentina – Beats to your rhythm
Armenia – Visit Armenia, It is Beautiful
Australia – There’s NOTHING like Australia
Austria – Arrive and revive
Bahamas – Life Is Grand
Bahrain – Ours. Yours. Bahrain
Bangladesh – Beautiful Bangladesh
Barbados – Brilliant Barbados
Belarus – Hospitality Beyond Borders
Belgium – The place to be
Belize – Mother Nature’s Best-Kept Secret
Bhutan – Happiness is a place
Bolivia – Bolivia awaits you
Bosnia and Herzegovina – The heart of SE Europe
Botswana – Our pride, your destination
Brazil – Brasil – sensational!
Brunei Darussalam – A kingdom of unexpected treasures
Bulgaria – A discovery to share
Burundi – Beautiful Burundi
Cabo Verde – No stress
Cambodia – Kingdom of wonder
Cameroon – All of Africa in one country
Canada – Keep exploring
Chad – Oasis of the Sahel
Chile – All are welcome
China – China Like Never Before
Colombia – Colombia is magical realism
Costa Rica – Essential Costa Rica
Croatia – Full of life
Cuba – Autentica Cuba
Cyprus – Cyprus in your heart
Czech Republic – Land of stories
Denmark – Happiest place on Earth!
Djibouti – Djibeauty
Dominica – The nature island
Dominican Republic – Dominican Republic has it all
Ecuador – All you need is Equador
Egypt – Where it all begins
El Salvador – The 45 Minute Country
Estonia – Epic Estonia
Ethiopia Land of origins
Fiji – Where Happiness Finds You
Finland – I wish I was in Finland
France – Rendez vous en France
Gambia – The smiling coast of Africa
Georgia – For the best moments of your life
Germany – Simply inspiring
Greece – All Time Classic
Grenada – Pure Grenada
Guatemala – Heart of the Mayan World
Guyana – South America Undiscovered
Haiti – Experience It!
Honduras – Everything is here
Hungary – Think Hungary more than expected
Iceland – Inspired by Iceland
India – Incredible !ndia
Indonesia – Wonderful Indonesia
Iran – You Are Invited
Iraq – The Other Iraq (Kurdistan)
Ireland – Jump into Ireland
Israel – Land of Creation
Italy – Made in Italy
Jamaica – Get All Right
Japan – Endless discovery
Jordan – Yes, it’s Jordan
Kazakhstan – The land of wonders
Kenya – Magical Kenya
Kiribati – For travellers
Kyrgyzstan – Oasis on the Great Silk Road
Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) – Simply Beautiful
Latvia – Best enjoyed slowly
Lebanon – Live Love Lebanon
Lesotho – The Kingdom In The Sky
Liechtenstein – Experience princely moments
Lithuania – See it! Feel it! Love it!
Luxembourg – Live your unexpected Luxembourg
Macedonia – Macedonia Timeless
Madagascar – A genuine island, a world apart
Malawi – The warm heart of Africa
Malaysia – Truly Asia
Maldives – The sunny side of life
Malta – Truly Mediterranean
Mauritius – It’s a pleasure
Mexico – Live It to Believe It
Micronesia (Federated States of) – Experience the warmth
Monaco – Easy going Monaco
Mongolia – Go Nomadic
Montenegro – Wild Beauty
Morocco – Much Mor
Mozambique – Come to where it all started
Myanmar – Let the journey begin
Namibia – Endless horizons
Nepal – Once is not enough
Netherlands – The original cool
New Zealand – 100% Pure
Nicaragua – Unica. Original!
Nigeria – Good people, great nation
Norway – Powered by nature
Oman – Beauty has an address
Palau – Pristine Paradise Palau
Panama – Panama Surprises
Papua New Guinea – A million different journeys
Paraguay – You have to feel it!
Peru – Land of the Incas
Philippines – It’s more fun in the Philippines
Poland – Move your imagination
Portugal – Europe’s West Coast
Qatar – Where dreams come to life
Republic of Korea (South Korea) – Imagine your Korea
Republic of Moldova – Discover the routes of life
Romania – Explore the Carpathian garden
Russian Federation – Reveal your own Russia
Rwanda – Remarkable Rwanda
Saint Kitts and Nevis – Follow your heart
Saint Lucia – Simply beautiful
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – Discover SVG
Samoa – Beautiful Samoa
San Marino – San Marino For All
Saudi Arabia – Experience to discover
Serbia – My Serbia
Seychelles – Another world
Sierra Leone – The freedom to explore
Singapore – Your Singapore
Slovakia – Travel in Slovakia – Good idea
Slovenia – I feel SLOVEnia
Solomon Islands – Seek the unexplored
South Africa – Inspiring new ways
Spain – #spainindetail
Sri Lanka – Wonder of Asia
Suriname – A Colorful Experience… Exotic beyond words
Swaziland – A royal experience
Switzerland – Get natural
Syrian Arab Republic – Always Beautiful
Tajikistan – Feel the friendship
Thailand – Amazing Thailand. It begins with the people
Timor-Leste – Being first has its rewards
Tonga – The true South Pacific
Trinidad and Tobago – The true Caribbean
Tunisia – I feel like Tunisia
Turkey -Be our guest
Tuvalu – Timeless Tuvalu
Uganda – You’re welcome
Ukraine – It’s all about U
United Arab Emirates – Discover all that’s possible
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – Home of amazing moments
United Republic of Tanzania – The land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and the Serengeti
United States of America – All within your reach
Uruguay – Uruguay natural
Uzbekistan – Naturally Irresistible!
Vanuatu – Discover what matters
Venezuela – Venezuela is your destination!
Vietnam – Timeless charm
Zambia – Let’s explore
Zimbabwe – A world of wonders

How to artfully cheat on Airbnb

2016-10-27

Would you buy a second hand car from an individual without seeing the vehicle and test driving it? Probably not. Would you pay for a hotel room without seeing it? Yes, because a business is running the hotel and there are rules and laws it has to follow – not to mention that it probably wants positive customer reviews as well.

Would you pay in advance for accommodation published on Airbnb that is provided by an individual? Many travelers say yes, but we hesitate. Here is why.
airbnb screen shot
This is a story that recently happened to a writer who works with us. She was traveling, and exploring southern Europe when she needed a place to stay for a week. She had (and still has) a perfect visitor record at Airbnb. She wanted a whole apartment to herself where she could rest and write. So, she searched for a quiet, peaceful place near the sea.

She discovered a place she liked: a tastefully furnished, parties forbidden in the apartment because the neighborhood is so peaceful and quiet – perfect. According to the information on Airbnb, it was located near a fishing village that was only a short walk away from the apartment.

The problems started with the address. The owner of the apartment had given an address that couldn’t be found. An email was quickly sent out, and the landlord emailed another address (in another town) that was fairly easy to find. The real address wasn’t near the fishing village or the sea.

The arrival was a shock for her. The apartment was located in a barrio, in a neighborhood where people hang out on the streets in front of the houses. Broken windows in worn-out cars. Lots of dogs and cats running around free. Litter and feces on the pavements. Constant barking of dogs, people shouting at one another and car engines revving between buildings created the atmosphere for the barrio.

It was late, she had already paid for the accommodation, there was little else she could do, so she decided to stay. Inside in the apartment it was as advertised, at least.

Next morning, she wanted to take a walk by the sea. Smartphone navigator showed the shortest way – the only way – to the fishing village. A long way to walk, but she intended to take a taxi back. It was a narrow, busy road. She started walking, but soon realized the road was too dangerous because of heavy traffic.

The moment she stepped on the pavement outside the apartment she had to fend herself from dogs and stand the looks of boldly staring residents. There was no common language, only the message that she doesn’t belong there.

So, in order to quiet down the constant unrest outside and the creeping feeling of unsafeness, she listened to her iPod for one week, wrote a lot and swore she wouldn’t rent anything without seeing it first.

Now, she has a new problem. She has to be able to check a potential apartment before booking. She has lost her trust in virtual apartments. On Airbnb, it is not possible the review a real apartment before booking. The service strips phone numbers and other information that allow setting up a meeting between parties. She has to find another way of discovering and booking rentals. For now, she is contacting local real estate agents in a destination where she is going next.

How did the Airbnb host do it? The first trick was to advertise a fishing village as the location for the property, even though the real location was in a nearby inland town. Having a car would have been the only possible way to make the trip from the apartment to the beach. The second trick was to advertise it as a peaceful, calm place. Naturally, people have different opinions on what is noise and what is quiet, but for some reason, the noise level declined considerably every time the police made their daily visit in the barrio.

Is the landlord still getting away with it on Airbnb? Yes. Airbnb or the apartment owner haven’t changed a word in the property description. She wrote a polite and truthful review about the apartment but it didn’t have an effect on the description. At close inspection, there seems to be other reviews at Airbnb that mention exactly the same problems as the writer experienced.

Why didn’t she read all the reviews before booking? There are a few reviews that mention the same problems, but she trusted the property description and having read a couple of reviews, she thought everything was fine. She had stayed in other Airbnb places before this without concerns or major problems.

Since Airbnb is the business that publishes the information on properties, it is responsible for the accuracy of the information. Plain and simple. The host, of course, may disagree and refer to positive reviews that mention nothing about incorrect information or potential unsafety of the neighborhood. Ultimately, Airbnb has to decide who to trust and what is correct. If paying customers stop trusting Airbnb, that’s it. Game over.

If Airbnb neglects these kind of cases, it is only a matter of time before something really nasty happens to a customer, or customers get fed up, and the corporation’s business model will be under scrutiny.

For ages, real estate agents have acted as brokers between people who need short-term or long-term accommodation and people who own houses and apartments. The agents are successful only if the landlords and the renters trust the agent. If something is not right, the agent has to act. In every country, laws regulate how the business works, and what the responsibilities of the parties are.

Sharing economy is here, and we welcome everything it enables, but corporations have to carefully take every aspect of the new business model into consideration.

A small, easy-to-use drone for serious selfie-photographers

2016-10-15

Selfie-sticks are surprisingly popular, even though they let you take photos from a very limited angle, and that’s why selfie-stick photos tend to look the same. We don’t expect to see as many selfie sticks at tourist destinations next peak season anymore as we have seen this year. Ambitious selfie photographers may move on to selfie drones because now, it looks like there is a drone product that everyone can use without having to spend days in learning how to fly one.
yuneec breeze selfie drone
Yuneec Breeze is roughly the size of a thick book, but it is much lighter than a book (the heaviest component is the battery). It is meant to be small and light so that it is easy to take along in a bag or packbag. A smartphone or tablet (Android and Apple) is required in order to tell the drone what it has to do.

Before the drone takes off, you have to choose the flying mode:

Pilot: This gives the most control over the drone. You can fly the drone manually by controlling it in the Breeze Cam app.
Selfie: Distance, altitude, and position sliders let you adjust the position of the drone in relation to yourself.
Orbit: The Orbit mode lets you instruct the Breeze to circle around you or another object.
Journey: The camera pitch determines the angle the drone will fly at, and you can adjust how far it goes.
Follow Me: First, you have to manually fly the drone to a position where you want it. Activate Follow Me, and the drone will keep its distance and position and follow you.

If the drone detects any problems with communication between itself and the device that is controlling it, it will return home (the place where it took off). And it is always possible to push return home button in the app.

The list price for the Yuneec Breeze is USD 499. The company lists retailers for the product on the web page here.

Le Monde tested the Breeze, and they were happy about:
– the image quality
– ease of use
– flight stability
– compact size.
Le Monde didn’t like:
– weak light indicators.
– image quality in some video modes.
– short flight time (battery lasts 12 minutes).

Here you can view sample video clips captured by Terry Dunn:

Yuneec Breeze key features and specifications

Flying modes: selfie, pilot, follow-me, journey, orbit.
Dimensions: 196 x 196 x 65 mm
Weight: 385 g.
Battery: 1150 mAh LiPo.
Flight time: up to 12 minutes.
Max flying height: 80 meters.
Max horizontal speed: 5 m/s (restricted by software)
Max climbing speed: 1 m/s
Wifi.
Android and Apple iOS apps for controlling the drone.
Camera:
– 0°C – 40°C working temperature.
– 13 Megapixel CMOS sensor.
– 4K and 1080p video capture.
– 4160 x 3120 pixels (13 MP) still images.
– FOV 117°
– 1/30 – 1/8000s shutter speed
– White balance: auto, sunny, sunrise, sunset, cloudy, tungsten light, glowing, disabled

On this video Bo Lorentzen shows you the features of the Yuneec Breeze and how to fly it:

Packing light for a trip is easier said than done – here are a few good tips

2016-10-04

Packing the right gear for a beach vacation or for skiing weekend on the mountains is very easy. You know exactly how the weather and the environment will be. The only question really is how many party outfits you want to pack in your suitcase.

If you are planning a weekend in London or Prague in the winter or spring, you have to be prepared for any kind of weather. Even tougher packing choices has to be made if you are going to tour, say, France in the spring or Sweden in the autumn.

Fortunately, experienced travellers from Splendid Asia have collected a number of good tips for packing for any trip like a pro.

Packing clothes, electronics and other things for a week or two week vacation is one thing but packing for one or two year trip as a digital nomad is completely something else. Assuming a nomad is flying between places where he or she stays for a few months at a time, everything has to fit in to two or three suitcases. If anyone has tips for packing for a nomad life, we would love to hear them.

pack light like a pro, infographic
Infographic by Splendid Asia.

Where travellers want to go and where they really end up in are two different things

2016-09-26

What we dream of doing and what we actually end up doing are often two different things in real life. Yet, dreaming and planning towards a goal is valuable because it may make us strive for something. This applies to travel as well: the travel destinations that people are most interested in are not the same as the destinations where they decide to travel.
Dubrovnik, Croatia. Port by Maarten Elings.
Top 10 countries where people across the world are interested in as a travel destination:

1. Croatia
2. Greece
3. Turkey
4. Thailand
5. Spain
6. Italy
7. Cuba
8. Portugal
9. Malta
10. United States

The top ten list was produced by Teflsearch that crunched the numbers of travel related Google searches for a whole year (July 2015 – July 2016). They used Google search data to analyse keywords people used in their online queries in 80 countries.

This is probably a good method to reveal what people are dreaming of when they start planning a vacation all the way to the moment when they have decided the destination. People are likely to use search engines in all stages of their vacation planning to find information about sights, activities and accommodation. Once the destination is locked, many travelers also download a travel guide that gives them accurate, reliable information on the chosen destination.

Although the most visited country in the world, France, is not on the top ten list at the moment (probably because of recent attacks in Paris and Nice), the majority of countries still are European. Turkey’s unstable situation may mean that the country drops considerably as a travel destination next time we review the top 10 list, and we expect United Kingdom to rise on the list.
bangkok, river boat tour, temple
The reality differs from dreams and plans. Here are the top 20 travel destinations in the world according to Mastercard:

1 Bangkok
2 London
3 Paris
4 Dubai
5 New York
6 Singapore
7 Kuala Lumpur
8 Istanbul
9 Tokyo
10 Seoul
11 Hong Kong
12 Barcelona
13 Amsterdam
14 Milan
15 Taipei
16 Rome
17 Osaka
18 Vienna
19 Shanghai
20 Prague

Business travel is included in the list, but it makes up around 9-19% of visitors in most of these destinations. In Paris, Tokyo, Milan and Shanghai, the ratio of business travelers is higher, from 20 to 54% in Shanghai.

The big news of the Mastercard 2016 list was that Bangkok topped the list as the most visited destination in the world, dropping London to second.

Instead of tiny islands and white beaches of Greece or sights and beaches of Croatia, the most popular destinations in real life are well-known major cities where probably every traveler wants to go at least once in their lives. Many cities in the top 20 also are favourite destinations for digital nomads.

Top destinations for digital nomads 2016

2016-09-07

The only way to really experience world’s amazing destinations is to go those places by yourself. Digital nomads are people who work while they travel across the world. The new lifestyle has inspired many new businesses and services that aim at assisting mobile workers on their journey.

To save you the hassle of weighing up the pros and cons of popular destinations across the world, here is a list that introduces the world’s top 7 nomad destinations in 2016.

Top 7 Nomad Destinations 2016

Infographic by Blogtrepreneur.

Since we have visited the top 7 cities, here are a few personal remarks on them.

1. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is an affordable city with a food culture that you’ll never forget. Tropical climate and difficult traffic may not please everyone.

2. Prague, Czech Republic
The old town is one of the most magnificent places to stroll for hours. Living in Prague is affordable. Continental climate with warm/hot summers and cold winters.

3. Hong Kong
Everything is business and trade in Hong Kong, so jump on board. Very busy, but well functioning city where you can find anything and everything the world has to offer.

4. Porto, Portugal
Portugal second largest city, the home of delicious Port wine. Mild climate that is rather pleasant through the year with most rain in winter. Porto, and Portugal in general, is an affordable destination.

5. Budapest, Hungary
The cost of living is a delight in Budapest for a nomad who has to work to pay the rent and the food. Summers can be very hot and winters mild.

6. Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is becoming a megacity where everything under the sun is available. City center can be expensive and not that welcoming, but outside the city beautiful, lush sceneries await.

7. London, UK
A digital nomad who wants to stay in London has to have clients that pay well because the city is one of the most expensive in Europe and the world. As a megacity it is one of the most pleasant ones where people still are friendly and everything (mostly) works (apart from the old underground network that is constantly being repaired).

The best camera apps for smartphone travel photography

2016-07-12

Many smartphone owners are happy with the camera application the phone manufacturer has installed on the device in the factory. In general, the factory-installed camera apps get the job done, but may lack an extra feature photographers maybe looking for. Fortunately, this is exactly where smartphones are strong: you can install another camera application on your phone. But which one is the best for travel photography?
samsung, smartphone, open camera app
Many camera apps are available both for Apple devices and for Android phones and tablets, but in this article we focus on Android camera applications. Joe Hindy on AndroidAuthority wrote brief reviews of popular camera apps for Android. First, let’s list the best apps, and then, we make our recommendation for the best apps.

samsung, open camera

Open Camera can show if you are holding the camera at level.


BestMe Selfie Camera
– as the name implies, the app has been designed for selfie photography
Camera FV-5
– manual control over images, including RAW format
Camera JB+
– simple photo shooting
Camera MX
– in addition to capturing photos, the app lets you edit images
Camera Zoom FX
– manual controls, RAW, 360 panorama
Candy Camera
– lots of filters
Cardboard Camera
– 360 photos for Google Cardboard
Cymera
– filters, stickers, photo editing
DSLR Camera Pro
– manual controls, histogram display, volume button as a shutter
Go Camera
– simple photo framing with filters
Google Camera
– HDR mode, slow motion video capture, wide angle mode, burst mode
Manual Camera
– strictly for taking photos exactly the way want with manual controls
Open Camera
– an open source, free, app with plenty of features
Snap Camera HDR
– plenty of features: 4K video, RAW, manual controls

You can read more about the camera apps introduced above here. What is our recommendation? Of course, it depends on what your requirements are. If you only want filters and don’t want to learn to use manual settings, download a simple app that can automatically snap decent pictures and has plenty of filters. If you know how to shoot on an SLR camera, you probably want more control over your images, and you should get an app with manual controls.

Settings in Open Camera app.

Settings in Open Camera app.


Our favourite for travel photography is Open Camera. It is a free app, and comes with features that have proven handy on the road and at home:

– an indicator that shows if the camera is at level with the horizon,
– burst mode,
– and burst interval.

Used together, the burst mode and burst interval features let you shoot timelapse picture sequences. You need a tripod or something else to hold the phone steady during the photo shoot, which can be as long as you want. For instance, we have created a timelapse from photos shot with Open Camera that has pictures taken at one minute interval for 24 hours. Open Camera won’t create the timelapse video for you, but you have to create the final timelapse on a PC.

Tips for traveling with a Wi-Fi only Apple iPad or Android tablet

2016-06-17

Having returned from a three-day road trip last night, a timely story published on Cnet caught my eye. Matt Elliott provides a few tips on traveling with a tablet that comes only with Wi-Fi connectivity. He has some good advice, but since the topic is fresh on my mind just now, I am going to add a few more tips.
navigation app on Apple iPad
Here are tips for traveling with a tablet (Android or iPad) that has Wi-Fi connectivity, but doesn’t have 3G or 4G mobile network access.

Five tips from Cnet:

1. Download books, music and movies you believe you need during the trip to the tablet before you leave. A 16GB or 32GB memory card provides plenty of extra space for Android tablets, whereas the Apple iPad doesn’t have a memory card slot at all.

2. Make maps available offline. Cnet recommends Google Maps, but I recommend Maps.me. It is the only navigation app that really works without an Internet connection. It really works. Before leaving, you have to download the maps for regions you are going to visit. All the other navigation apps that promise offline usage, like Google Maps and Here have always failed me – without an exception.

3. Turn off Wi-Fi if there is no signal available to preserve battery. Otherwise, your tablet constantly seeks for signal.

4. Turn on find my tablet -feature if your tablet comes with it.

5. Pack a protective case and a keyboard along with your tablet. Protective case is an essential accessory. If you are going to write anything longer than Twitter messages, get a Bluetooth keyboard – they are light and slim.

acer tablet with BLuetooth keyboard
Additional tips for traveling with a Wi-Fi only tablet from Klaava Media’s travel writers:

Learn how to use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. An Android phone can be turned into a hotspot in Settings-Tethering. Beware though, your phone’s battery will drain pretty quickly. We use this method for brief Internet access sessions only.

If you need regular Internet access, get a dedicated battery-powered Wi-Fi/4G router. We are using Huawei E5377Ts-32 that hasn’t failed us yet. It can also provide Internet access for your laptop.

A portable power pack is small and low-cost accessory to ensure your phone and tablet can be charged even in a situation when there is no power available.

If you will be driving, acquire a micro-USB charger that can take its power from the cigarette lighter. Both your phone and tablet can be recharged with this.

Behind a book manuscript: How a travel writer experienced Helsinki

2016-05-21

The first impression: love or hate

In every relationship, the first impression is extremely important. The same applies to travel destinations that you are visiting for the first time. You can fall in love with a place at first sight, or it can take multiple re-visits before the poor first impression changes (if it ever does).

Now that I have written a travel guidebook on Helsinki and it is published, it is time to look back and evaluate my relationship with the city. I have lived and worked in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, for quite some time but what was my first impression about the city? Did I really like it, did it make me curious, was I unimpressed or even unmoved?

I believe it was late summer — August or September — when I arrived. The first images I can still recall were that it was green everywhere, lots of light, very clean, plenty of space and no fuss — everything just worked. Nothing was spectacular, massive, totally weird, or anything like that, but rather human-size and practical.

Local people kept their distance, and didn’t chit-chat (later, I found out that it is the norm). But if I approached someone, the response was overwhelming.

Helsinki made me curious. I didn’t quite know what it was and why it attracted me, but I wanted to know its secret. There had to be something behind those faces and facades that an average tourist didn’t see.

View video:

Helsinki, city streets

Reality check: How was Helsinki really like?

After you have spent a few days in a new destination, you realize that there are actually ordinary people who go about their daily lives in the city. Life in the destination is not all about seeing the sights, having meals in tourist restaurants and constantly carrying a camera that’s ready to shoot whatever comes in front of the lens.

Of course, a few days isn’t enough to learn how people live in a place, but a sharp-eyed traveler gets hints and impressions of the local culture. At this stage, things get interesting. If I am exploring a destination because I intend to write about it, after a week or so, I have visited and photographed the obligatory sights. Then, I can look around for things that I find different, interesting and outside the inner circle of must-see places. In Helsinki, it meant discovering places like Kaivopuisto, Itäkeskus, old Eira, touring the shores of the city on a bicycle, and getting to know the bohemian district of Kallio.

I must have taken more than thousand photos in Helsinki in winter and in summer time. Some of the images made it to the book, most didn’t. Let me show you a few pictures of Helsinki where I believe I managed to capture something about the true faces of the city.
cafe at Esplanade park in HelsinkiA cafe at Esplanade Park in the city center.

Erottaja, Helsinki, jugend housesHouses lining the Erottaja street.

helsinki, view from hotel torniA view of Helsinki from Torni. The city’s landmark white Cathedral rises above other buildings.

The bottom line: What does Helsinki mean to me?

After spending so much time in Helsinki, exploring its streets, discovering rarely visited places, studying its essence, asking stupid questions when chatting locals, photographing and writing about the city, how do I feel about it now after my Helsinki travel guidebook has been published? Would I want to live in the city? Do I feel that I want to visit the city next year and two years after that?

It is a universal up-and-down experience how a foreigner accommodates to a new country and culture. Many culture shock -books have been written about the phenomenon. Having lived long enough in Finland, I believe I have survived from my shock, and I can sit back and take a long, hard look at the city, its people and culture.

The things I most appreciate in Helsinki (and in Finland) are safety, how everything just works, rationality of the people, ample green space, human-size architecture, modern art, and large wilderness areas. For me, the ideal moment to travel to Finland is when I want to breathe freely, be sure that I can be alone of I want to be alone without anyone bothering me, not worry about officers or taxi drivers cheating me, and forget about the poverty and distress in many other parts of the world. If it is summer, I will sit down at Esplanade or Kaivopuisto Park with my ice cream and blend into the crowd. I will be quiet and think the same things as Finns do: when we head to the cottage next weekend, what will we grill after sauna?

Helsinki is one of the easiest city to travel to and explore. It is a pleasure to stop by even for a short layover. Staying in the city for a long period exposes people to the long and dark winter, but summer rewards those who survive the winter. (Locals actually enjoy winter by traveling somewhere where it is colder than in Helsinki and snow is abundant).

I actually think that Helsinki (and Finland) is a bit of a hidden gem. The world has started to take notice of the country and its capital after news of its school system, maternal packages, Angry Birds, Nightwish and talented race drivers have spread in social media. Scandinavian kitchen and literature are also trending, at least, in Europe.

At times, Helsinki may be cool, but it won’t leave you cold if you give it a few days.

This story was written by Kim Anton who has authored and photographed two travel guidebooks for Klaava Media.

Esplanade park ,Helsinki in summer
My favourite season in Helsinki? Well, everyone falls in love with Finland’s summer (as I did), but winter has its own, very special atmosphere and fun outdoor activities. The picture above and the one below show the same place in summer and in winter in the center of Helsinki.
snow storm at Esplanade park in Helsinki