travel blog 7: photographing memories

1 Feb
This travel blog series is written by friend and I as a means of sharing our advice and experience from our trip to Europe this summer. Blogs discussing research and planningtravelling with friendsbooking flightsbooking hotels/hostels, and packing lists, and daybag packing have been posted already and future blogs will discuss what to do before you leave, London, Paris, Nice (and surrounding area), and more! We hope you find this series interesting and useful. Comments are welcome and appreciated (especially given today’s subject matter)!
I love going through our trip photos and laughing at all of the memories captured in the photos (as well as the hundreds of bad photos that were taken). For our entire 3 week trip, we took 1450 photos which isn’t actually that much once you go through them all and only take out the good ones. I have a folder for all of the photos as well as a folder with the “showcase” photos to show off to people when they ask about my trip or to post to Facebook. I did a lot of weeding and would say there are only 400 photos that I think are worthy of other people seeing. The rest of the photos are blurry, unflattering, or poorly positioned and can’t be helped by any photo editing software.I’m not a very good photographer but I tried my best to compose my shots thoughtfully (as requested credit goes to Paul C. for reminding me of this word). I didn’t want to bore my friends and family back home with picture after picture of landmarks and scenery. Boooorrring.

The gear I brought with me:
  • Canon Rebel XS – purchased during Boxing Week two years ago
  • 18-55mm lens
  • Camera case (Lowepro Apex 110AW) – Purchased for $35 I think. It’s a small case and a good size for the DSLR. No room for another lens though.
  • SD card and camera connector
  • Battery charger
  • Gorillapod (borrowed from A’s sister). See post here on my discussion on self-photography products.

My suggestions for what to do before you go:

  • Make sure everything is in working order! If your battery is dying, I would consider buying another one because nothing is worse that having a dead battery halfway through the day.
  • Read some travel photography books. I took one out from the library and flipped through it for some of their suggestions.
  • Read the manual or guide book for your camera. I was able to find a Dummies for Canon Rebel e-book for my specific camera model and it was really helpful. I didn’t know a lot about  my camera and the book really helped. You have to read it with your camera in front of you so you can actually try the things in the book.
  • Take practice photos. I really wish I had done this. I understood the technique and button functions on my camera but it’s different to figure it out in your house as opposed to a busy tourist destination with people everywhere. It sounds kind of lame but if you really want to take good photos from the beginning, go touristing in your city and get a feel for the camera. There is a clear progression in photo quality in my photos over the trip period where my London photos aren’t that great.
  • Make sure your friend (if traveling with one) knows how to use the camera too. Having a travel companion is great because you can take pictures of each other but it doesn’t really work that well if you’re both not familiar with the camera and settings. I take the blame for the large number of bad photos of me for the first few days of the trip. I forgot to place emphasis on the fact that the camera is on manual focus so the “red dot needs to be on my face and not the person behind me”, haha. Lesson learned!

Photography on the go:

  • Dress decently. Yes, we were on vacation (and are slightly vain) but it was worth putting in the effort to dress nicely for all our photo-ops. Especially for the big shots like those in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Seriously. Black tights with this outfit…I am too embarrassed to show off this pic even though I’m at Platform 9 3/4!!

  • Beware of wardrobe malfunctions. A gust of wind might puff up your blouse and make you look pregnant. Also, beware of that money belt! There are a ton of pictures of me with the money belt bump visible under my shirt.
  • Most of the time I kept my camera in my day bag but if we were walking around in a big touristy area I would hang the camera strap across my body and hold onto it while walking. This kept it more secure from thieves and was easy to access for quick shots.

My personal photo tips:

  • I really like close up photos with the blurry background. I forgot the technical term for this. Depth of focus? Anyways, it’s nice for portrait shots when you have a landmark in the background. When taking these photos, try to time it so no one is in the background during the shot. It sounds like a no-brainer but it’s easy to forget and easy to ruin a photo this way.


not good

not good

better - we waited like a minute for the people behind me to walk by and this makes for a much nicer photo

  • Know that you can usually fix your photos with photo editing software especially when it comes to white balance, contrast, shadows, and over/under exposure. You can’t fix blurriness or out of focus faces so concentrate on focusing on your subjects.
  • Take photos from an interesting angle. I have several shots that I really like because of the angle I took it at. We were in the Queen’s House in Greenwich and there was a big tulip staircase. I looked up from the bottom and thought it would make a really cool photo. Snapped it and it’s one of my fave shots.
  • Have a signature pose (if you want). My friend’s signature pose was jumping. I got pretty good at taking jumping pics. Someone on Facebook had a really cool pose where he did headstands in front of scenic views and landmarks. We’re not talented enough to do that, haha. And by signature pose, I do not mean doing the peace sign.

Keeping your photos safe:

  • I read horror stories of people losing all of their photos when their camera was stolen or damaged. I’m not sure why I didn’t have a plan before going on the trip but I recommend that you do. I brought along my iPad and purchased an Apple camera connection kit at the airport when we were leaving London. You can buy these online for cheaper like this link here or go the Apple route. This was really useful for copying photos from the Camera to my iPad and then to Dropbox. Dropbox uploading took a long time though so I would have to leave it going on for a few hours at night. By the end of the trip, I just copied the photos to the iPad and left it there. I had a copy on my camera card and the iPad just in case. If both went missing then it wouldn’t be good…

Editing your photos:

  • For those who’ve read my iPad app blog, I raved about Snapseed which I love for photo editing. It is so easy to use and the photos turn out great. You might be able to find this for free by checking AppShopper (I blogged about this too) every few days. They also came out with a Mac app which I purchased for $19.99. It has the same functionality of the iPad app but the photo quality is the same. I found with the iPad app, the photo quality was compressed to fit on to the iPad.


one to forty-eight? seventy-two?

30 Jan

The next couple of weeks are going to be busy for me school wise so I won’t be doing daily posts because of the time crunch and also because the travel posts take more time to write than my usual posts. Just an announcement.

travel blog part 6: day tripper

27 Jan

This travel blog series is written by friend and I as a means of sharing our advice and experience from our trip to Europe this summer. Blogs discussing research and planningtravelling with friendsbooking flights, booking hotels/hostels, and packing lists have been posted already and future blogs will discuss what to do before you leave, London, Paris, Nice (and surrounding area), and more! We hope you find this series interesting and useful. Comments are welcome and appreciated!
Our bags!
We covered our extensive packing list on Wednesday and today we’re posting about the things we carried in our day bags that we brought with us while “exploring.” Ada had a small bag which held a surprisingly large amount of stuff. I brought a larger purse so I could fit my digital SLR into it. We both bought these bags at Winners.
Things to keep in mind when purchasing a smaller bag:
  • Keep your personal safety in mind. Don’t bring a bag without a zipper or snaps because they’re easier to pickpocket. While my bag did not have a zipper it did have snap enclosures and I also stuck on some velcro to keep it closed better and could hear it being opened if someone tried to be sneaky.
  • You can bring a smaller backpack if you want but the purse worked fine for us. We kept it at our sides and in front of us when we were on the train to keep on eye on it. With backpacks, you can’t tell if someone is doing something behind you so I actually prefer the purses more.
  • The bag is going to get dirty. Don’t bring a really expensive one that stands out to pickpocketers or one that you don’t want to ruin. Our bags got wet, dirty from the ground and trains, and smelly to be honest.
  • While in Paris, I decided to purchase a longchamp bag. At the beginning of the trip, I admit that I didn’t see why people liked the bag. It was expensive and looked…boring. By the end of the trip, I had purchased my own as a useful souvenir from Europe. So yes, I had a change in heart. What I like about it: it’s durable, easy to clean (seriously just wipe it down with a cloth), lightweight, holds a lot of stuff, and has a zipper! I would recommend this bag for carrying around your day to day stuff.
In our bags (indicated who carried what):
  • Camera and camera bag – S
  • Camera tripod (the Gorillapod to be exact) – A
  • water bottle – both
  • small guidebook – S
  • pens – both
  • room key – both
  • smaller money pouch (this was good to have in an accessible bag where we kept small amounts of money of about $50 worth of euros or pounds so we didn’t need to access our money belt all time, change, one credit card and transit passes) – both
  • scarf or light cardigan depending on the day – both
  • phone – A
  • hand lotion and lip balm, sunscreen sometimes – both
  • umbrella (when we knew it was going to rain aka one time) – S

Oh and the money belt. We wore ours ¾ of the trip. I chose to wear mine in the front and Ada wore hers in the back. By the end of the trip when it was getting progressively hotter, we opted to not wear our belts and  hid them in our luggage in random spots or wrap it  up and place in the dirty laundry bag (haha, seriously, no housekeeping attendant would want to rifle through dirty laundry).

There are pros and cons to wearing it in the front or back. In the front, it’s more accessible and right in front of you so nobody can grab it without you seeing. However, depending on what you’re wearing, the money belt is sort of visible. I can tell that I’m wearing in some of my pics because I have a slight and abnormal looking bump on my stomach.

On the other hand, wearing it in the back puts it out of view and could be seen from behind if you sit down and your shirt rides up. Again, you don’t see weird bumps in pictures so either way… it’s not ideal.

Things we kept in our individual money belts:

    • passport
    • flight tickets
    • id, all of our cash money (kept the daily amounts in the pouch in our purse), additional credit card
    • insurance card
    • one pepto bismo pill –  Just in case!

travel blog part 5: packing the backpack

25 Jan
This travel blog series is written by friend and I as a means of sharing our advice and experience from our trip to Europe this summer. Blogs discussing research and planningtravelling with friendsbooking flights, and booking hotels/hostels have been posted already and future blogs will discuss packing lists, what to do before you leave, daypacks, London, Paris, Nice (and surrounding area), and more! We hope you find this series interesting and useful. Comments are welcome and appreciated!

Note, this is really long and poorly formatted in some sections because it didn’t transfer over nicely from Google Docs. Apologies cause I can’t figure out how to fix it!

Packing is one of my favourite things to do before a trip. We’re those type of people who pack days before leaving to ensure we’ve got everything so Ada and I made sure to share and collaborate on our packing lists to make sure everything was covered and we didn’t bring duplicates of stuff we didn’t need to bring.We were indecisive about what type of luggage we wanted to bring with us on our trip. Both of us are traditional rolling bag travellers and we weren’t sure if this was a good idea since everyone seems to backpack Europe!Before choosing the type of luggage to bring and deciding what to pack, we had to consider:

1) Baggage allowance on our flights to/from/within Europe

  • Carry-on Baggage
  • Checked Baggage
    • Air Canada (from Europe)
      • 1 bag free
      • Max weight – 23 kg (50 lb)
      • Pick up checked luggage during transfer when returning to Canada and re-check
    • EasyJet (within Europe)
      • Up to 20 kg (44 lb)

2) Our accommodations

  • Hostel
    • Will be sharing rooms?
      • Security of our luggage while we are out and about
    • Are there lockers for valuables?
      • Should we bring an iPad, SLR camera? What about passports, money?
  • Hotel
    • Less worrying about security of our things

After considering these options, both of us ended up taking a backpack around 35 L each and did not have to check luggage in while going to Europe and on other flights as well.

Ada purchased a North Face backpack and we don’t have the info on it unfortunately. But it was bigger than mine.

The bag I brought was the MEC Shuttle II Travelpack. I was really happy with this bag. It holds an amazingly large amount of stuff in the front pocket. It was a good size and could go on the plane as a carry-on. I liked that it was convertible but when it started bulging and getting to heavy it was awkward to carry by the shoulder straps. I used the backpack straps a couple of times but the straps aren’t meant for heavy duty and lengthy use so the comfort level wasn’t that great. I would use it again for other trips and not jam as much stuff into it.

To get an idea of what to pack, we’ve included our combined packing lists with comments post-trip. It seems like a lot of stuff but a lot of it is small. There are some things we wished we hadn’t brought and we’ve noted those below. Overall, I think we did a pretty good job and there wasn’t really a time when we said to ourselves “I wish I had brought this ______.”


  • sunscreen – SPF 70!
  • hair accessories
  • tiger balm – You never know when muscle cramps will happen! But I didn’t use it.
  • drixoral – So useful. Drixoral is a nasal decongestant spray. I had a hard time breathing at night and when I got sick as well and this helped a lot. I don’t know if you can buy these things in France cause I didn’t see any and I don’t know how you would describe it in French anyways, lol.
  • deodorant – important! Nice and Paris were hot…haha
  • ear plugs – Brought them but I didn’t use them. We only stayed in a hostel once though so I would bring them again anyways because they’re small.
  • conditioner/shampoo bar – only bring if you are going to hostels. I just used the hotel stuff for the rest of the trip.
  • gravol, Tylenol, pepto bismol, vitamins – Didn’t take my vitamins but I did use the Gravol, Tylenol and Pepto Bismol
  • soap bar – available in hotels so don’t bring if you’re staying in hotels
  • visine for contacts – ideal for dry eyes on the airplane
  • extra contacts
  • saline solution
  • toothbrush/ toothpaste
  • facial cleanser/makeup remover
  • razor
  • glasses/microfiber cloth
  • oil blotting sheets – Like I and sweaty…need to look good for photos!
  • baby wipes – Brought them in case we needed to freshen up mid-day. I think I used them a couple of times to freshen up my feet after wearing sandals
  • feminine products
  • essential makeup (mineral powder foundation, blush, brushes, eyeliner, curler), Qtips,
  • nail clippers
  • tweezers
  • towels – We both brought small microfiber towels which we used in the hostels because they dry very quickly and also used them at the beach. Probably not good for the towels but they did the job. Mine was from REI in the States but you can find similar ones at MEC.


  • iphone/iPad/charger
  • camera battery charger
  • camera – I brought a Canon Rebel XS (more on photos later).
  • sd card
  • Camera stand – See my earlier post about the Gorilla pod we brought.
  • camera connection kit for iPad (purchased in England)
All of the clothing we brought could be worn with other things and still look good. Most of our clothing was neutral with a few colourful items that went well with either a skirt, shorts, or jeans.
  • 2 casual t-shirts
  • Pajamas (tshirt and shorts)
  • 2 casual tank tops
  • 1 dressy tank top
  • 1 strapless tank top
  • 1 grey short sleeve cardigan
  • 1 sarong – didn’t use, so I wouldn’t bring it. I never wear sarongs but figured I might need it one day…
  • 4 socks (2 socks and 2 tights) – I wore ballet flats/sandals for most of the trip so didn’t need a lot of socks.
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 skirt – A Gap knee length skirt, very functional. Not too long but not short enough so I couldn’t get into Le Sacre Coeur in Paris.
  • 10 underwear
  • 1 nude bra and 1 strapless bra
  • 1 white scarf
  • 1 AA Le Sac dress  -Seriously, this dress is amazing. So simple but useful. I was able to wear this multiple times in different ways. I probably wore this 5 times.
  • 1 long sleeve black cardigan
  • 1 black long sleeve top –  I don’t think I wore this one.
  • 1 belt  – Don’t forget the belt! Gives shape to skirts and dresses at the waist
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 rain jacket – Brought it but never used it so I would choose an umbrella over the jacket if travelling during the summer.

Other items

  • money belt
  • mini locks for backpack – Brought these to lock our bags if needed, but didn’t use them. Who would steal our clothes? We kept valuables in the locker.
  • platypus water bottle – This was a really great space saver. I could fill it up and when I was done, I just rolled it up and it took up very little space compared to a Sigg bottle.
  • mec turtle light – Would highly recommend this light or another small flashlight if staying in a hostel. There were some times when we came back and other people were sleeping so I used the light to dig through my stuff.
  • travel pillow – I purchased an inflatable one form MEC so it didn’t take up too much room. I only used it on the plane to and from Europe so I guess it was worth it.
  • eye cover for sleeping – did not use but it’s small enough so I would bring one anyways
  • rubber bands, 2 small ziploc bags, extra plastic bags for dirty laundry or shoes
  • small first aid kit (aka bandaids and moleskin)
  • sewing kit – did not use. You could probably get this from the hotel lobby if needed anyways
  • tide to go
  • selection of earrings and necklaces
  • lara bars – I brought a bunch of snack bars with me cause they are cheaper here than there. It was nice to have them and obviously by the end of the trip they were all gone
  • shower cap
  • umbrella – I think I used it once so check the weather channel before your trip. There was one time when it poured and we forgot to bring it with us so we just had to deal with it and were too cheap (and not willing to sacrifice pride) to buy a plastic tourist poncho
  • watch
  • reusable shopping bag – be eco-friendly!
  • smaller black purse – I don’t think I ever used this because we didn’t plan to go out at night. The time we did, it was unplanned so I had my larger one with me. I wouldn’t bring it with me next time. Maybe a clutch instead.
  • Bug repellent – We used this when we were on the Seine Boat Cruises in Paris and sitting by the Eiffel Tower at night.
This was really hard for me to plan because I wanted to look “fashionable” but still be comfortable while walking. I wear orthotics so it was important to find a shoe that I could slip it in.  I ended up buying a pair of Clarks shoes ($65) with a removable insole so I could put my orthotic inside.
  • 1 pair converse-type shoes (wore on the plane and back so didn’t take up room in the bag)
  • 1 pair flip flops – I found the best flip flops ever at Sports Chek/Atmosphere. I used to wear Havaianas but I will never go back. The brand is called Sanuk and they were kinda pricey ($30) for flip flops but were worth it. Take it from someone whose feet hurt from not wearing orthotics for 3 hours. I could wear these all day and for several days in a row with no pain whatsoever thanks to the “yoga mat” material used to make the sandals. These are the exact pair I purchased.
  • 1 pair ballet flats (Clarks) – Make sure to wear them in. I didn’t do it enough before I left and had really sore feet from friction.
  • Dr. Scholl’s moleskin! Just in case.

removing mascara with olive oil

23 Jan

Hmm…don’t really know what to write about today…

Yesterday I wore mascara for the first time in a really long time. I hate wearing mascara because it’s such a pain to take off but decided to give it a try again. I didn’t have a branded eye makeup remover at my place so I did some googling and tried using jojoba oil (which I use for my face and removing general eye makeup). It worked ok and then I tried olive oil. I think the olive oil worked better but I must have got some in my eye cause my eyes were all cloudy for about 10 minutes which wasn’t pleasant. It didn’t hurt or sting but it was disorienting. I shower at night so going into the shower helped.

I wasn’t interested in going through this again so, I did some review searching on Makeupalley for a makeup remover for the new waterproof mascara I bought the other day. I picked up the oil free Neutrogena remover. I’d like to do a post one of these days with pictures on the difference between waterproof and non-waterproof mascara on asian eyes. I’ll let you know how the Neutrogena remover works out!