I took this photo on the beach near Ponce on a beautifully warm night – the sky was clear save for a few fluffy clouds meandering quickly through the sky. It was so dreamy!!
El Yunque is a rainforest near to San Juan. It’s not that close, because once you get there, then you have to go a bit further up the reserve, the roads twisting and turning like switchbacks. That’s normal in PR. The roads in the mountains are just built like that. For me, it was like those tea cup rides at state fairs, whipping around corners, not sure if my body was going to stay in the car or not. I loved it.
It was sad when we came because the top of the forest looked like it had been shaved with a giant razor, and it pretty much had. All the lush was gone. It was still there, but the sun came through areas it didn’t used to before. Hiking through the El Toro path in El Yunque was still beautiful though. It took getting directions to get here, definitely not the place to depend on GPS, you have to ask people because we went on the backside of the reserve, not the popular way to go up, but the other way was closed. The mosquitos didn’t bother at all. NOT like New England where they are bloodthirsty and crusading to find any open skin or even skin covered by clothes, they don’t care, they will get through. Here, nothing like that. The mosquitos on the island are friendly. You don’t even notice them. They leave their bite without any pricks or anything. They don’t get in your face much, which is something the New England mosquitos love to do, they love the face for some reason. I could live there, there with the friendly mosquitos. We can sit around the fire at night and have Medallas (a local PR beer).
Río Piedras is a neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico known for its graffiti. It’s not popular with tourists because it doesn’t have the reputation as being particularly safe. It is more inland, which means further away from beaches, fancy hotels, and Old San Juan which tourists tend to prefer. Which is why I felt more relaxed here. I really can’t stand tourist areas.
It was raining and quiet on a sunday in June. The streets were empty except for a few people. Shops were closed. Somehow this made the graffiti speak louder, scream actually.
Fever Ray – Keep the Streets Empty for Me
There are a lot of students here. Students all around the world tend to be the ones to spark protest and action. The graffiti stands as a protest without violence, without active police beatings and tear gas. It lasts for a long time. It says we are active and don’t like how things have become. We will not be silent. Plus, we like roosters. 🙂
This is a pretty amazing memory, one I could never forget about, even if I tried. Camping on the edge of the grand canyon and waking up for the sunrise. A spectacular sunrise!
There was a fire the night before, and because not enough warm things were brought, there was a second fire…around midnight. Everything was incredibly dry, so unlike my native New England, where all seems to be perpetually wet, things started crackling in a hot second. pun intended. The trees nearby were wet down as there was fear of lighting the whole grand canyon on fire – that would not be cool. That didn’t happen, but you can never be too safe…with fire…and trees.
So, due to lack of sleep as it was so frigid and excitement to see the show of the morning, I walked over to the edge at the cusp of dawn and waited to greet the most beautiful galactic being of which humans are aware (to date!). There was something so magical about that feeling, sitting on what seemed like the edge of the world, watching the colors come alive around the canyon little by little until it was like a full blown bonfire. As the sun peeked over the horizon, the rock that line the canyon walls started to glow. The jagged ridges of the canyon casted shadows over the lower bits but themselves shone in pure glorious sunshine. The sky was a perfect mix or all different shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, magenta. It was ethereal. And no one else was there…
No photographers, no hikers.
No line of tripods. Just us. I had a friend who came with me and brought his ukulele and played a few things as we watched the sun rise. Talk about a moment. He handed the mini guitar to me and I plucked a few strings before giving it back and proceeding to take a few pictures.
I wasn’t sure if I was on earth at that point or in some sort of dream dimension. That place, at that time, we were part of the landscape, part of the spectacle. We were the sun, the rocks, the winds. I experienced everything as it was in the moment. I heard this quote recently…
Some people go to church and think about fishing…others go fishing and think of God
Well, this moment, I was thinking about that, the universe, all those things. I felt more connected to a spirituality in that moment than I ever did at church. I think I could adapt that quote into something about photography or camping/hiking. After all, fishing is quite like photography in a way. They can both be meditative and peaceful, a way to relax and be in nature. Photos don’t bother fish though…but fishing doesn’t involve electronics…I think the answer here is – shoot film! Anyways, here are some pretty pictures now…
Rocks on fire!
Always gotta have a fire circle 🙂
Welcome to the Boston Subway aka the MBTA or just the “T”…infamous…squeaky…shaky…and expensive. But it’ll do right? The buses are in a bit better shape because a few new ones were placed in service last year or the year before. Fancy hybrid ones. The actual subway however? Nope nada. The focus is more on extending the lines further outside the city where people might actually be able to afford a place to live rather than improving the lines they already have. And improvement, they need. But that’s fine – they’ll just keep building those new “luxury” apartment villages right behind one of the biggest electrical grid near the city and onward so folks can feel a sense of connection to the city. They still have to have a 30min ride in – depending on where you get off.
This photo is from one of the red line stations north of Harvard. It’s either most definitely Porter or Davis. I can’t believe I actually forget! I’ve been on those lines so much in the last few years. Anyways, each of the stations have their own unique architecture or designs and this is an example of one of them. Pretty neat right? Even if you feel like you are riding the escalator the long way to hell. 🙂 It’s sooo long you could probably have time for a lunch or a nap!
Bostonian tip – no one calls it the MBTA – just say the “T” and you won’t get any confused looks.
Turns and curves in nature – I just wanted to post this for the title. 🙂 But in all seriousness – how insane is this tree? Nature never disappoints with its unique and strange, just as much as with its symmetry and consistency. It is an infinite-edged spectacle. And I stand in awe, and try to keep my jaw from falling open all the time. Nature is the only pure cure we have. All else is shallow. Get thee to the forest! There is much healing that can be had just being surrounded by the beauty of life – of healthy eco systems (if they even truly exist anymore as we have ruined almost every corner of our planet).
I always think of this tree as having a personality, I would imagine it as a dancer, twisting and bending in the sun’s glory, making a poem in pure joy from basking in such splendor. 🙂
The key to finding a great deal on used camera gear is knowing when to be patient and when to pounce. I buy most of my gear used. In today’s consumerist global society, objects, toys, and tech like cameras become obsolete every six months or so, or even sooner than that. There’s so many great cameras that you can find on the secondhand market. The only trouble is convincing your inner capitalistic demons that you don’t need the newest, latest, highest MP count, or IBIS stabilization, or .2 less f stop!! Get that inner disciplined shopping warrior awake!
Much of the junk out there in the photography gear circuit will tell you, you need the latest and greatest, which is amidst more junk from photographers that will tell you that the only camera that matters is the one you have with you (blah blah blah)…yet said photographers are touting the latest tech and being sponsored by brands (receiving free gear for reviews). Hmmm…doesn’t smell right to me.
If you don’t have a camera or want an upgrade – the one that you need is the one that A – fits in your budget and B – has the capabilities and tools to be able to do what you need it to do. Forget about what you want (unless you have spare money and want to blow it away needlessly). That is the first rule of budgeting. Wants are out. Needs are considered. Necessities are priority.
Budget and Debit – NOT CREDIT
Before even looking for a camera, you need to sit down, be realistic, and figure out how much you want to spend…from your DEBIT account. NOT your credit card. Take the advice or leave it, but this will make you feel much better in the end. Budget from your debit, your checking accounts. If you don’t have the money, please wait until you have saved enough. Don’t put it on the credit card. This is how credit card companies get you!
Budget for the entire system at the very beginning before buying anything. Make a list of everything you will need. This includes:
- Camera & Lens Insurance
- Carrying case
- SD Cards
- Cables & Adaptors
- Cable releases
- Software (however there are loads of free alternative photo editing software to start with)
And that’s not even everything! That’s only the basic. Maintain everything within your budget. If you can only spend $500, you cannot buy a camera that is $450, you only have $50 left for lenses and everything else, especially insurance. Trust me, you will want the insurance. It’s worth it. I recommend getting the drops and spills extra insurance too, not only the basic. You will thank me!!
Tools + Necessities
Once you’ve got your budget, set out a checklist of specs or functionalities you need from the camera. The camera is a tool, not an accessory. If you think cameras are only good for fashionable accessories, get out. There’s the door. 🙂 Good? Ok, moving on – Prepare a list of what you need, not what you want. Set out a list of must haves and nice to haves. Search based only upon this list (only on must haves) and the budget you set.
If you don’t know what you need or want, do some research into types photography that you like. Do a lot of research. Do a lot of thinking 🙂 Experiment with your phone first, or older camera. Borrow a camera. If you want to shoot sports or wildlife, don’t look for cameras with known slow auto-focus or wide angle lenses, even if they are cool or pretty. Think FUNCTION. 🙂
Here are a selection of places to find used camera gear that I would personally recommend.
Adorama – My Favorite
I love Adorama’s used inventory. Sometimes there is not much, it depends on what they have, what is going out of style or date. I’ve found most of my used gear here. They are reliable and fast. They have protection plans and warranties. You can also trade in your gear here for proceeds towards the item you are looking to purchase.
My favorite aspect of shopping for used gear here is the rating system that they have. They rate the used gear from Like New to pretty much For Parts. Most of the inventory is excellent or good grade. It’s working perfectly, just might have a scratch or two. But honestly, if you buy new, you might scratch the camera taking it out of the box. These are tools to be used, not decorative necklaces!
Another helpful thing of Adorama is that you have a reliable company evaluating the used gear, instead of one person or company that really wants to sell it on Ebay and might not be as truthful or reliable as a company such as Adorama.
Buying from here actually just feels like buying a new camera. The most common brands you will find used here are Sony and Fujifilm. Which is fantastic because these are so much more expense new and other places where they are sold.
BTW – I have no affiliation with any of these places…
Local Camera Stores
These are not always the cheapest option, but sometimes you never know what you can find here in their used inventory. You might not find cheap camera bodies, but there might be some used cheap lenses depending on the store. One near me is the Newton Camera Store and they keep an online inventory of used products. I find this is one of the best options if you are looking for film cameras instead of digital.
Be selective here and spend the time and patience to find a good option. Read where the product is coming from and try to have a discerning eye on the seller’s reputation and overall appearance. There can be many fake goods sold on Ebay. This is the site I would advise the most caution on, but you can potentially find some of the lowest prices here. People looking to upgrade and need to sell their current version to add to their budget for the new version. Only go with a seller that has positive reviews. Actually read the reviews and see what people say. Take your time with Ebay. You don’t want to spend $500 and then realize what you bought was a scam. Not to scare you, just be cautious here. I’ve never had an issue because I’ve been patient and picky. 🙂
Other Options I don’t particularly care for:
B&H Photo – Used – less user friendly than Adorama, less inventory, and higher used prices. That’s my experience. It depends on what kind of gear you are searching for.
Amazon – I find most of the tech sold here secondhand is more expensive than other places like Ebay or Adorama.
Buying used has saved me so much money over the years. I’ve never had a problem with any item that I have purchased used.
One tip – ALWAYS buy a service plan. Squaretrade is really good. In the event that you have an issue, they take your camera and fix it. That’s it. Never buy used, or new for that matter, without a protection plan. I would recommend spending more money for the extra Drops & Spills one. That way, anything that happens, your investment is backed up. Hakuna Matata! This is why Adorama is my favorite because you can easily add a protection plan to the camera when checking out.
If you want to read more about the gear I have had success with – click here!
Travel light: I love to move. I love to explore. I love to be on the go. I love to discover new places, even if its just down the street from where I live. What comes with me is only ever one backpack, if that. A small backpack. With small things. And a small camera. And a tiny gorillapod that fits in my palm. And that’s all.
It’s both trendy but also truly liberating to “travel light” in this decade. Big and bulky is not cool anymore, thanks to the birth of an “ultra-portable, lightweight” gear industry. Small just got too big for its britches, was tired of being put in a corner, and wanted more. Nobody puts small in a corner!
These are my thoughts on to travel light but I have these just about all the time. Not only when you want to make those trendy “what’s in travel my bag?” posts, or challenge yourself to go on a long trip with a 30L backpack. To travel light is a way of thinking, not just a trend. It’s a perspective that follows you through your day to day as well as your holidays. It’s very philosophical too. Reducing the heavy baggage (literally and figuratively) in your life and camera kit. That’s a topic for another day. 🙂
Me, I don’t even have a purse, and for a woman that is something a little out of the ordinary where I live. There are only a couple of backpacks and one camera bag in my closet. I only have small ones too. I don’t even have a “camera backpack”. Just a tiny Tamrac messenger bag that only fits one camera and lens (not even a tablet or computer!). And I like that. And I have a few reasons why…
I don’t like to be weighed down. I don’t like to be obtrusive. I don’t like to be tired and I don’t like to be distracted. I hate bringing things I don’t use around with me. But that’s my style and everyone’s style is different. I will always say…
Be Cool. Be Compact.
A – Your body will thank you
B – Others will thank you
C – Your photography will thank you
D – Your savings will thank you
We (as a collective society and majorly based on trends and experience) are increasingly paying more and more for things in this decade that are getting smaller and smaller. With the exception of the new iPhoneX (what a beast!). I still have the iPhone 5 and don’t want an “upgrade”.
Anyways, how does that make sense?! We took small and elevated him to a giant times-square-esque platform supported by loads of moola (that’s money). I’m not complaining, I love it. Well, let me rephrase that. I love packable, portable, ultra-light things. I DO NOT LOVE paying an arm, a leg, and my left eye for it. However, I understand how we got to this premium that the market has put on these types of products. Thank you capitalism!
“Small” “Thin” “Lightweight” “Portable” “Packable” “Lean” “Compact”
The Names of the Game. In the manner of a confession, secretly those words make the wheels in my massive gear-head start turning. Who doesn’t love a teeny tiny “budget” friendly camera that fits into your pocket but yet packs the punch of serious “pro” cameras?!! YES please. And truth be told – there’s something to it. Remember when we (and I mean we as in me and all y’all if you have had this experience) used to lug those GIGANTIC DSLRs around?! Those crazy heavy zoom lenses?! When “we” thought that made us cool and serious photographers? When we thought we needed a gigantic camera to get good photos?! Ya – I know it wasn’t only me 🙂 I see you there 🙂
Enter stage left – Fujifilm X Series…
Yes, I am one of those…those x-heads…those cult people...a self-confessed unashamed convert…heck, I even named this “b-word” with a play on words that can be interpreted many ways, but one of them is xherexthere (x as in x-series)…
I used to have large Nikons, Canons, etc. After a few years, this thing called the Fujifilm x100s came into my life and let me tell you – I was a goner! Still am. Dunzo. Totally head over heels. It was as if I had been in a dark hole and Fuji dug me out with their magicalness of portability and lightweight fantastic-looking “retro” mirrorless camera.
Cue gospel music!
Don’t be deceived…this might seem like an Ad for Fujifilm X Series, but trust me, I advertise for NO ONE. I am also NOT a hipster. I don’t sling a film camera around my neck because I think it makes me look cool. This is not one of those travel blogs where I write enthusiastic praise words about products I don’t use or care about or don’t have a burning desire in my blood to use them everyday of my life because they give me such joy and happiness. (fist pumps in the air). Alright, I admit, now that sounds a little materialistic. For the record – I could use a disposable camera, I don’t care – photography is an art form – not a product of what kind of camera you have. It comes from your soul, your imagination, your practice, etc…
I’ve used Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, Fujifilm, etc. I’ve purchased and used a lot of different types and brands of camera. I’ve used DSLRs, point and shoots, and mirrorless. I’ve also shot a lot of film and digital both. I even cheated on Fujifilm for a year or two with a Sony a6000 (which is still a great camera). They brought me back with the x100F and XT2. I know there are many great cameras out there, from many different engineers and designers. In fact, I don’t think anyone can go wrong if they just close their eyes and chose a camera at random. However, I’ve found that there is none that I like more than the Fujifilm X series and way the technology is able to materialize and produces my actions into a beautiful digital file. It’s feels like magic (even thought I know it is science).
Returning to the topic – iTravel LTE with my Fujifilm X Series cameras. I currently run around with the XT2 and an XA3. I only bring ONE of those wherever I go though, not both. But what about a backup? Well, maybe if something happened to my camera that rendered it inoperable, the universe is trying to tell me to take a break and that’s ok with me. I can still take photographs in my head. Unless I want to realllllly take photos and then I always bring the Fujifilm XP120 (it costs about $140 and I love it). 🙂
(those links to the gear are affiliate links, which means you can shop normally on Amazon and support this site at the same time. 🙂 Both you and I will appreciate it because I will be able to fund spending more time on this project, and you can spend more time reading/looking at pretty pictures, thanks!!) 🙂
For lenses – I have the 27mm pancake, 35mm F2 WR, and the 18-55mm. Most of the time, the 27mm is on my camera. I don’t really like carrying around the 18-55mm, because even that feel heavy to me. Remember, I shot with the x100s/t/f for the longest time. With the 27mm, it feels like the camera is nothing and I am taking photographs with an extension of my hands.
This is liberating. I’m sure you have heard this before. But let me say it again. It’s liberating!! I feel free, free to be just me, unencumbered by unnecessary burdensome baggage. Free to only take the camera, one lens, and nothing else. Maybe for long days, just the tiny Tamrac apache (smallest) bag. And I don’t even like carrying that around.
A – Your body will thank you
If we want to take better photos, we have to be fully present and concentrated in the moment and in the energies we absorb and emit between our internal and external environments. Not distracted by a heavy bag that makes us tired.
I have way more energy taking pictures with a tiny camera than a super-charged IBIS body with a gigantic all-encompassing-zoom-lens. I also tend to keep the camera out of the bag and on my neck or in my hands. I don’t put it in the bag most of time, like I did with larger cameras because my neck hurt.
I also only take one camera, and one lens. I don’t want to have the choice to change lenses, because for every angle, I will be wondering which lens I want to use, and that shit is distracting!
B – Others will thank you
I don’t see anybody on the street with a large DSLR and massive zoom lens as cool anymore. My perspective has evolved to this over time. Unless you are a professional sports or wildlife photographer, don’t stick your massive 70-300mm lens around the streets or anywhere for that matter. Just. Don’t. Take that shit on safari! (for the record – people are NOT a safari, despite what some photographers think and how they act on the streets).
There is a reason why sports photographers usually have a designated area at the game. There is a reason why wildlife photographers usually shoot, alone, in the middle of nowhere far away from their subjects. Because people, myself included, don’t want to be hit in the face or feel a long tube extending in their peripherals (this has happened) from some idiota’s burning need to zoom in so he can see the tiny little mustache hairs on your face and the crumbs on your chin as he snaps a shot of you putting that scrumptious croissant into your mouth.
C – Your photography will thank you
What do a lot of writers do when they need or want to write something? They rid their environment of distractions. Art is often compelled in the quiet. Too much noise and focus/concentration or inspiration is lost. Unless you find focus or inspiration in noise. And then, my friend, I salute you.
So many people I have talked to about this have confirmed my suspicions and my experience. Me, I photograph better with the most minimal gear possible. One camera, one lens. I get more creative. I get more active. I make due with what I have. When you have too many options or too many tools, it becomes more about the decision of which tool to use, rather than how to use it. It’s distracting.
Now, for different occasions, you might need different tools. But chose one tool for the occasion and be done. Leave the rest at home. If you are going on the street, take one pancake lens. If you are going birding, take one zoom lens. That’s all. Unless you are a professional photographer on assignment or a client job, you don’t need backup gear. Most of us have our “smart” phones as well. Did I mention this post is not directed towards pro photographers (and by professional, I mean people that make a living from photography)?
D – Your savings will thank you
How much does a Canon 5D Mark III cost? Or a Nikon D-blahblahblah…I know I know, mirrorless/small cameras, especially Fuji can be expensive depending on the model/glass. Leica is small too but unreal expensive. I don’t jive with Leica’s price tag, but to each their own.
However, compared to the full frame ones with large lenses, small/mirrorless are more friendly on your savings plan. You can absolutely blow your paycheck on small cameras, that’s true. I’m speaking here to small lightweight cameras that DON’T cost you an arm, a leg, and your left eye. It’s all in the decisions made and what you think you need versus how you can do more with less.
For example, Fuji has expensive lenses that are quite large and heavy. I don’t waste time drooling over those when I know I want to keep my kit light. They actually make their smallest lenses cheapest. The 27mm – cheap. The 35mm F2 WR – cheap. The XA-3 – cheap. The XP120 – cheap. The XT2 – cheaper. “Cheap” compared to the range of lens options. Inexpensive for the value when you compare what it can do and the quality of Fuji’s glass, even the inexpensive ones. The glass is really freakin good, damit.
One more thing on this – I always buy my gear USED. Never new. Cameras are like phones, a new version comes out every year. People are always upgrading so there is always a market for cameras that are one or two years old selling for a huge discount. You can get a really good, practically new, hardly used camera for $500 less than sticker price if you had bought new.
I didn’t intend to write a book with this article, but it seems I got carried away! By the way, if you have read this far, you are incredible. Want to be friends?
As an aside – I am not a travel blogger that likes photography. I am not a photographer that likes to travel. I am just a regular person that likes to make things…art…and my favorite medium is photography. I photograph. I travel. It’s more simple to describe what I do and let you interpret that than to start putting labels on myself. I hate labels. I would just like to make that nuance known. K. Cool. Glad we got that down 🙂
Have I convinced you to chuck that DSLR yet and travel light -er?