In LA? Surf’s Up!

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Surfer at Huntington Beach Competition. Huntington Beach, California. July 2016.

If you area visitor in the LA area right now – and, alright, even you locals as well – the first thing I have to say is sorry: these fires suck! Air quality is bad, lighting is all screwy from the ash clouds, and it is so hot that no one really wants to do anything. This is not the California I signed up for when I moved home but at least us locals are used to fire seasons and the burning in the chaparral – again, for you visitors, I am so sorry.

But this week and into the weekend there is a pretty cool excursion which more or less helps you escape the orange lighting  which makes LA city look a lot like an angry Mordor upon approach:

The Vans US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach.

From young surfers to older and more experienced pros, these athletes are quite the sight. The event has spaces for two simultaneous surf competitions, as well as BMX and Skateboard arenas.

Whether you are a beach junkie (yes!), photo-bug (yes!) or a fan of any or all of these sports (a little calmer but still, yes!), then this is worth the drive. These are also pop up shops including a Van’s mega-pop up which sells exclusive 2016 US Open gear if the heat gets too much for you or you are just looking for a break.

We went last Saturday which was day 1 of the competition and it was already pretty crowded so I’d plan to get there early especially as the finals roll in this weekend. There is lot parking but that usually fills up hours before things get truly underway and parking on the street isn’t crazy expensive so I would plan to park on the street and walk in – again, be wary as you may have to walk a fair amount!

Unfortunately, while we were there, the fog was so heavy that there wasn’t much to see on the water. For the three hours (two of actual surf time) we snapped pictures, each site seemed to get less than a single heat scored. Still, a lot of photographers – my father and myself included – did pick up a few good shots of practice runs from the pier during the standstill.

Photographers! Remember to set up and protect you camera and gear for the conditions (moisture, wind, sun, heat, salt, ect) and that the pier gets crowded so finding a good vantage point can be really hit or miss.

I didn’t mind the conditions except for the little bit of fuzz in my pictures, so as long as you enjoy watching the surfers do their thing regardless if you get perfect shots, you’ll have a great day.

Because of scheduling and the fog, we only stayed a short while but I have heard that you get quite a show from the other competitions as well, so they are worth stopping into. The skate and BMX competitions start closer to noon so keep an eye on the schedule. If I managed to get back out there this weekend, my camera and I will definitely be running around every inch of the competition!

Until then, remember your hats, glasses, and sunscreen and stay safe out there LA!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Traveling Photographers’ Must Haves

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Urban Lights, LACMA. Los Angeles, California. May 2016.

I love taking pictures whenever I travel, no matter how near or far. Whether I’m hiking up mountains in Hawaii or Scotland; walking beaches in Australia or back home in SoCal; or exploring cityscapes in New York or London, I always want my camera close by.

While traveling, however, you can’t always have the same resources with you that you would at home – like your computer on hand to upload your pictures when your camera is full or protection from the elements or a whole mess of other things.

This list covers a few of the must needs from the ‘I need this to work’ that so many people forget to throw in their bags in the rush of packing to fun extras you wouldn’t think about that just help you out.

1. An External Hard Drive — There are a few models out now which no longer need a computer to either back up or store your photos when you are traveling and don’t have access to your computer. If your camera uses a SD memory card, my dad bought and really liked My Passport (Pro or not) Wireless Hard Drive on his last bit of travels. While he didn’t need to offload pictures for space but as a back up in case of an emergency – lost camera, damage, ect. – I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d a back up unit like this when my phone (and in turn my camera) were lifted in Paris!

2. Rain Sleeve — These are plastic covers that you can put over your camera with an open space for your lens but coverage for the body. There are great designs you can purchase or you can try to build your own but make sure everything is really covered and you can still get to all your controls. This is important even if you don’t think it’s supposed to rain – things can change quickly! Also, these shields protect against most other elements, like sand.

3. Camera Stabilizer — There are so many cool designs for products that help you take amazing photos. I’ve seen walking sticks that you can plant in the ground and screw a camera onto (like a tripod but with multiple uses!), retractable string add-ons that attach to your clothing or shoes to show any tilt, as well as easily broken down tripods that are really travel accessible. These can help you frame pictures, reach higher, and get better shots of yourself while you go – yes, selfie-sticks fit here as well but they have been banned from a lot of places so be careful or yours will be confiscated.

4. Small, Digital Secondary Camera — If you have a good SLR camera (you know, with a removable lens), carrying a small compact camera as well as a back up can be really helpful. My dad used to be a professional photographer so he takes his cameras pretty seriously and he has been doing this for years. There are places that don’t allow large cameras – any professional looking ones – but in other places the lighting causes issues with larger cameras – these quick shots work really well.

5. Multiple SD Cards, Batteries, and Don’t Forget Your Charger(s) — I know, I know, this one feels like a no brainer, but you’ll be surprised how many times these things end up NOT in your bag! My recent trip to the LA Zoo, for example, ended up being a cellphone camera only event since I hadn’t charged my battery and didn’t pack my spare. You’ll be really disappointed if you can’t photograph your travels because you’re missing your hardware. So seriously, write it on your hand, your mirrors, a post-it note on your front door, or anywhere else that you will see  before you leave.

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So that’s my list. It’s just a few things to remember when you pack up your camera but they can be pretty important if you want to get your shots!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Traveling Photographers’ Must Haves

5 Things You’d Never Think to Pack…

But will totally want to!

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One shot from a long climb day. Neuschwanstein Castle. July 2015.

As I have mentioned, a good chunk of my family has just come back from traveling through Europe and the UK for the past month and with their arrival comes a whole new set of insights and advice to pass on to all of you.

I asked my mom this time around what the biggest thing she learned from this trip (she has traveled many place for work throughout her career for a varied length of time, but this month was probably the longest, active trip for her) and she gave me this list of easy to pack items that she really wished she had available everyday of her trip.

1. Cinch backpack

This is one of those cheap drawstring backpacks you can pick up pretty much everywhere. The reason we recommend these so much is you can really easily pack one (or more) in your bigger travel backpack – along with books, computers, ect. – but then take just the essentials with you – like a jacket – on longer travel days without having to pack and unpack constantly.

2. Footbath tub

When you are running around constantly, the one part of your body that really takes a beating is your feet. Unfortunately, not all hotels (or wherever you rest your head for the night) have bathtubs to soak your feet in. While you can climb up on a bathroom counter or sleep with your feet elevated to help you out, bringing a small tub is a lot easier (and safer) and won’t really effect your packing. Whether you decide to bring a plastic tub – easily packed in a larger suitcase without messing up you  ability to pack because you can pack clothes into it – or an inflatable one – you’ll have to blow it up every time but easily folds into any case – you’ll be able to soak your tired feet without worrying about being stranded in a bathroom (or falling off any counters) and feel ready to go the next day!

3. Collapsible hiking/walking stick

This one falls a little more into the older groups’ ‘needs to bring’ set but there are definite times when even those of us in the younger crowd can use one of these handy sticks. Whether you are going on actual travel hikes, long walks through hilly country or city, or (more specifically) church and castle tours across Europe, too many hills no matter your age can get to you and – as with all things – once you feel like you need one, you won’t be able to find one to buy. The collapsible stick is the best because it will fit in your drawstring day bag and is otherwise simple practical.

4. Personal fan and/or spray bottle

A lot of European buildings do not have central air and as everywhere seems to get hotter and hotter, this can cause some seriously uncomfortable nights – and days walking around too. if you bring a small spray bottle or fan you’ll be able to get a bit of relief especially if your fan can be on and set in front of an ice bucket over night – this will cool the air even more!

5. Single bed sheet

A good percentage of people -at least, the people I know – can’t seem to sleep without some kind of blanket on top of them but many place around the world don’t do much in the way of sheets; instead, they have the bed cover and the duvet. But, as stated earlier, as the temperatures rise, the more uncomfortable those duvets become. So packing a single sheet in with your clothes is easy and light but can seriously increase your comfort.

*Just one word to the wise: if you are having your room made up, pack up your sheet so it doesn’t get mixed in with the hotels laundry.

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So that’s the list and, personally, I cannot wait for my chance to use all of these options! But until then:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

5 Things You’d Never Think to Pack…

Going to the Zoo

The amazing new Los Angeles Zoo renovations that are so worth the visit.

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Prowling tiger hunting hidden meat. Los Angeles Zoo. July 2016.

I’ve always loved the zoo – school visits,  family outings, or simple art excursions, it’s always a great day. This could be me being an education nerd – I spent a good chunk of my day talking about cool tech additions they could use as a way increasing visibility and audience interactivity – but the new additions to the zoo are the areas that really deserve attention.

There are many who – rightfully so – dislike zoos for the same reasons many now avoid Sea World; enclosures are too small and they don’t fit the needs of animals whose natures’ dictate room to move and, in many cases, hunt. While the hunting issues can’t really be fixed in any publicly approved ways – no animals released to be attacked in the paddock, but they do hide food for predators to have to hunt down before they can eat – in terms of space, the Los Angeles’ zoo has been going leaps and bounds to improve the situation.

A few years ago, this dealt with updating the reptile house but, most recently, was the opening of Rain Forests of America – the new otter enclosure.

This enclosure houses a single family of otters which has been growing rapidly since the opening of this amazing space – happy otters = otter babies. Filled with a rushing river slide,  large diving space and plenty of land to sunbath on, this is the most spectacular area I’ve ever seen in a zoo.

Anyone who has been disappointed with this zoo in the past should see this enclosure and the work being done to improve the lives of the animals housed here.

Whenever there is extra money or donations made, those funds are put into improving habitats. One serious show of trust in the reintroduction of Australian animals – Australia is extremely selective in where their zoos send animals.

And don’t forget, it’s summer so you should definitely check out the events calendar – Brew at the LA Zoo (for adults only) and music events like Friday music shows as part of the Roaring Nights series.

Finally, don’t forget other local treasures you can hit in one go – such as Travel Town Railroad and Shakespeare in the Park in Griffith Park throughout the summer (this year it’s Richard III and The Tempest).

Below are a few more pictures but if you are in LA – visiting or just home – locked in like I am – I really can’t recommend a visit enough. It’s summer and gets busy so don’t forget you can download digital tickets online even on location!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Going to the Zoo